Skip to main content
Internet Archive's 25th Anniversary Logo

Full text of "The Story of Primrose, 1831-1895"

See other formats


This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on library shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 

to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 

to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 

are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other maiginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 

publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing tliis resource, we liave taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 
We also ask that you: 

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain fivm automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attributionTht GoogXt "watermark" you see on each file is essential for in forming people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liabili^ can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 

at |http: //books .google .com/I 



U^ ^ 


"^^•■^^l / 





The Story of Primrose (^^^"-^ 





i^6 ^J^f,,^. 

FEB Zl -aio 




The writing of this history of his native town was not 
begun by the writer with any pecuniary end in view. The 
very limited number of readers whom he could hope to 
obtain must certainly have shown him, had such been the 
case, that the time spent in preparing it could have been 
far more profitably employed. The work, nevertheless, 
has been one of profit, and in the pleasure and knowledge 
derived from it, it has brought its own reward. To have 
a thorough knowledge of the history of one's region, is 
no small satisfaction in itself, and while the story of our 
town may not be so striking and romahtic as that of some 
of its neighbors, it cannot fail to be of interest to her own 

The history is written chiefly for the benefit of the 
younger generation, many of whom know little of the 
early happenings in their localities and of the privations 
of their own fathers and mothers. If this book should 
meet with their appreciation the writer shall feel doubly 
repaid. It would, of course, have been a happier achieve- 
ment had this work been written by some one of the old 
pioneers who have witnessed and lived through all the 
changing scenes in the town's history, but as no one such 
has seen fit to do so, he trusts the work of younger hands 
will be spared any censure in undertaking it. The many 
errors and shortcomings that the work doubtless possesses, 
he trusts will also be treated with consideration. 


In the preparation of this work the writer has been 
guided by school, town, county and state records, Mr. 
Butterworth's History of Dane County, Wisconsin His- 
torical Collections, newspaper files, and among pioneers 
besides those whose reminiscences are contained in the 
volume, Messrs. Philander Nash, Isaac D. Spears, William 
R. Spears, Jno. Jones, C. J. Lewis, Thos. Jones, J. T. 
Chandler, G. Gullickson, M. C. Webber, O. G. Stamn, 
Ole Osmonson, Eliphalet Thomas, Mrs. G. Tollefson, N. 
N. Byrge. Special thanks are due W. W. Patchin for 

kindness and interest shown. • 

A. B. 


The Story of Primrose. 




When the gold fever was at its height in California, 
when Ireland was drooping under her great potato 
famine and Europe was trembling from center to circum- 
ference at the great French and Hungarian revolutions, 
another historical occurrence of no little significance was 
consummated in the little city of Madison, Wisconsin. 
The nature of this act we gather from the laws of the 
State for the year 1849: 

Chap. 120 of the Acts and Resolves passed by the Legis- 
lature of Wisconsin, 1849. 

AN ACT to organize the Towns of Primrose and Perry 
in Dane County. 

The people of Wisconsin^ represented in Senate and Assembly, 
do enact as follows : 

Sec. 1. Township No. five north, of range No. seven 
east, in Dane Co., is hereby set off from the town of 
Montrose and organized into a separate town of the name 
of Primrose, and the first town meeting shall be held at 
the school house of said town, on the first Tuesday in 

April next. 

Sec. 2. Township No. five north, of range No. six east 
in Dane Co., is hereby set off from the town of Montrose 
and organized as a separate town by the name of Perry 


and attached to the said town of Primrose for all town 


Sec. 3. This act shall take effect on the first Tuesday 

of April next. 

Harrison C. Hobart, 

Speaker of the Assembly. 

J. E. Holmes, 

Lt.'Gov. and Prest of the Senate. 

Approved March 21, 1849. 

Nelson Dewey, 


The bill was registered Assembly Bill No. 85 and was 
introduced Feb. 7 by Hon. Ira W. Bird, now living at 
Jefferson, Wis., who represented the towns of Madison, 
Cross Plains, Clarkson (Roxbury and Dane), Springfield, 
Verona, Montrose, Oregon and Greenfield. It was 
entered on the proceedings of the house as '' a petition 
of Robert Herrington and 19 other inhabitants of Town 
5 Range 7, Dane County, for a separate township." 
The bill was referred to the committee on towns, of which 
Hon. S. H. Roys, a brilliant young locofoco^ was chairman. 
On March 16 it was reported back from the senate and 

It was originally intended by the pioneers to have the 
town called Perry, in honor of the hero of Lake Erie, the 
settlers being chiefly Ohio people. But as the postoffice 
had received the name of Primrose the legislative com- 
mittee thought it best not to name the town otherwise, so 
the name Perry was given to the western town. 

The story of how the town originally received its name 
is interesting and possesses an element of the romantic. 
When in 1847 the postoffice was established at the house 
of Robert Spears, the question arose as to what it should 
be named. The chivalrous pioneers left the choice to the 
ladies. After some time Mrs. Spears suggested the name 


" Primrose" from an old song in honor of a country lass 
that she had heard her father sing beginning: 

"On Primrose Hill there lived a lass," 

Mrs. Chandler, however, thought " Primrose '* too sweet 
a name and argued for ** Hillsburgh.*' A division of the 
house was called and the settlers decided that ** Primrose" 
would not be " too sweet." 

The song from which the town took its name is sup- 
posed to have run somewhat in this wise: 

On Primrose Hill there lived a lass. 
And aye a bonnie lass was she. 
Her charms so fair, none might surpass, 
And none withstand their witcherie. 

And oft as tripped this lass abroad 
The flowers grew fairer round her feet. 
More freshly green seemed e'en the sod, 
The thrushes song more low and sweet. 

By streamlet, grove, and ruin old. 
Young Harry woed so ardently, 
And whispering cronies slyly told 
How Mary soon a bride should be. 

Alas, for lovers' gentle hearts. 

That wars should rise to work them harm; 

From weeping Mary, Harry parts. 

His country's weal demands his arm. 

The battle's last wild echo dies. 
The smoke slow rises from the plain. 
Young Harry, foremost, weltering lies. 
His bosom pierced, in deadly pain. 

His anguished lips, all quivering pale. 
One latest prayer of love would frame, 
The feeble, faltering accents fail, 
And end in murmuring Mary's name. 

Peace spreads her wing o'er camp and field, 
The cruel war full soon is past. 
But who sweet Mary's breast can shield? 
What art dispel the coming blast? 

They brought young Harry's drooping clay. 
His broken mother's cot before. 
And thrice sweet Mary swooned away. 
And long the secret tear did pour. 



She murmured not, nor hinted ill, 
But ere the year its course was flown, 
The lovely flower of Primrose Hill, 
Slept with her lover neath the stone. 

So the beautiful name of Primrose was adopted, and it 
was indeed fitting that Mrs. Spears, the first woman in 
the town, should have the honor of giving it its name. 
Where the Primrose Hill of the song is is not known. 
The name occurs in other English ballads and a hill bear- 
ing that name lies to the south of London. 




The first white man known to have set foot on Primrose 
soil was Eldred S. Hale, who is still a resident of the 
town. In 1829 the United States Government purchased 
from the Winnebago Indians all of Southwestern Wis- 
consin in order that mining might be carried on peace- 

• fully, and in 1831 Mr. Hale, in company with his brother 
Washington, carried the last load of provisions and pay- 
ment to them to Ft. Winnebago (Columbia county). 
They journeyed through Primrose over the Madison and 
Wiota road, then an Indian trail. Straggling hunters and 
prospectors may have visited the town previous to this 
time but no evidence of it has been found. After Eb- 
enezer Brigham had established his smelting oven at Blue 
Mounds, much of the lead mineral from the Exeter mines 
was taken to the Mounds to be smelted. This was hauled 
by ox teams over the Blue Mounds and Exeter Ridge 
road which crossed the Madison and Wiota road just 
above the spring by K, Hustad's house, section 19. The 
proximity of this spring to the crossing of these roads 


made it a popular camping place for emigrants and miners 
and lead Robert Spears to establish the first settlement 
and hotel there in 1844. 

Major Wm. Deviese, of Montrose, an old Frenchman, 
born in the last century, used to relate an incident in his 
life connected with this camp ground that may bear re- 
peating: ''1 set out from Exeter," he said, "early one 
winter's morning to walk to Brigham's, at Blue Mounds. 
I had expected to reach Brigham's about two o'clock, so 
I stuck only a piece of Johnny cake and a bit of bacon in 
my pocket. Soon after I started a most terrific blizzard 
set in which drifted my path full and otherwise impeded 
my progress. I floundered on, however, and was sur- 
prised when I reached the spring on the Madison and 
Wiota trail to find that it was night. My Johnny cake 
and bacon was long since gone and the nearest house 
was at Blue Mounds, nearly ten miles away. There was 
no alternative but to build a fire and lay down in the 
snow. Of course I didn't sleep any too soundly and I 
awoke early the next morning most tremendously hungry. 
In the burr oaks around me were roosting large flocks of 
prairie chickens, but I had no gun. Just as I was prepar- 
ing to resume my march, I saw a hungry hawk swoop 
down on one of the birds and kill it. I rushed at him 
with my stick before he had time to carry it off and cap- 
tured the bird from him. I roasted it in the fire that I 
had built and had a most excellent breakfast that 

The town was first surveyed into sections in 1833 by 
Jas. W. Stephenson. As this gentleman w^s of consider- 
able importance in his day, a little further notice of him 
will be admissible. 

Major James W. Stephenson was one of the prominent 
men of the Black Hawk war. He was a close personal 
friend of Gen. Henry, and with him, had been arraigned 
at Edwardsville, 111., for a high misdemeanor but both 


were acquitted. Previous to the Indian war he was in the 
employ of the Galena Mining Company. At the out- 
break of hostilities he was commissioned captain. He 
found the bodies of Hale* and his companions who had 
been killed May 23, and buried them, and on June 8, with 
a small band led out to reconnoitre, he fought a daring 
battle near Yellow Creek, on the Pecatonica. 

In this battle he lost three men and was himself severely 
wounded. Three times, with his men, he charged a 
thicket in which the Indians were stationed and in which 
Black Hawk himself, was said to be hidden. Later, he 
was created major and, with eighty Galena men, joined 
Gen. Dodge at Deeve's old smelting works on Sugar 
River. In various capacities, he served to the end of the 
war, being at Fort Winnebago, Blue Mounds and the 
Bad Axe. 

A point of interest in Mr. Stephenson's report of his 
survey of the town is the mention of an Indian village on 
the southern boundary line of section 36. 

Robert Spears, the pioneer of pioneers, came to Prim- 
rose from Green county, Wisconsin, in the spring of 1844. 
There was no settlement within a half dozen miles at the 
time, though Robert Oliver, of Montrose, had two years 
previously entered some land in section 14. Mr. Spears 
entered a claim of 160 acres embracing the region of the 
spring on the present K. Hustad farm. Ten acres were 
broken and put under cultivation before the little log 

♦May 21, 1882, Felix St. Vrain, agent for the Sacs and Foxes at Rock 
Island, set out with six others to seek lands for settlement. On the way they 
found the dead body of one, Durley, and buried it. Seeing signs of hostility 
among the Indians, they debated returning on the night of the 22d. Three 
were tor returning and four against, so they struck camp for the night. The 
next morning they were attacked near the present station of Polo, on the 
Illinois Central R. R., and St. Vrain, Hale, Fowler and Aaron Hawley were 
killed. Their companions, Aquilla Ford, McKinney and Alex Higinbotham, 
though hotly pursued, managed to escape and finally reached Galena. The 
murder of these men precipitated the Black Hawk war. — IVts, Historical 


cabin, the first Primrose home, was built on the identical 
spot where K. Hustad's house now stands. In these labors 
Mr. Spears was assisted by his nephew Isaac D. Spears. 

Mr. Spears came originally from Troy, Ohio. From 
the same region came his brothers William and Edmond 
Spears with their families about the same time, also 
Philander Nash, unmarried, and in 1845 Martin Nash and 
and George Patchin with their families. Then, in 1847, 
came Joel Smith and David Thomas with their families. 
These families were all related in some direct or round- 
about way. In 1846 W. W., Stephen G., and E. S. Hale 
and Christian Hendrickson settled in the town, and about 
the same time or before came Robert Herrington and 
Wm. W. Day and Mr. and Mrs. John Craft, the latter 
settling in " Miller s Hollow." The other earliest 
pioneers among the Americans were Hall C. Chandler, 
William K. and Fred Underbill, John Jones, Joseph 
Phillips, George Schofield, Robert White, Joel Britts, 
Jacob and Samuel H. Nofsinger, Charles and Wil- 
mot Marston, Mr. Ford, Martin L. Ashmore, William 
G. Dudley, Billings Lewis, the La Follette's, Josiah, 
William, Warren, Elhanon, Robert and Harvey; Free- 
man Fisher, Jonathan Prince. 

Hall C. Chandler and brothers who followed later, 
came from Maine via the Great lakes. The Hales, Under- 
bills, Jones, Hendricksons and several others came from 
the mining regions about Wiota, and the La Follette's, 
Britts and Nofsingers from Indiana. Concerning some of 
these pioneer families we let their representatives speak 
elsewhere. Of these original settlers Mr. E. S. Hale is 
alone still a resident. 

As nearly as can be ascertained these earliest comers 
settled or entered present farms in some part as 
follows: Sec. 5, W. W. Hale, E. W. La Follette respect- 
ively, on H. Johnson and J. Lingard farms; sec. 6, Ed- 
mond Spears, W. G. Dudley, S. H. Nofsinger, Martin L. 


Ashmore on Kolve, T. Swanson, Edseth, and Mrs. G. 
Halvorson farms; sec. 7, Billings Lewis, Jacob B. Beckner, 
on A. Severson and M. Kerwin farms; sec. 8, Wm. Spears, 
Jacob B. Nofsinger, Robert Herrington, Wilmot Marston, 
on O. B. Skuldt, Syver Skuldt and Baker farms; sec. 9, 
Joseph Phillips on G. Gullickson farm; sec. 15, H. C. 
Chandler on O. L. Myrland farm; sec. 17, Mr. Ford on 
Ole O. Lee farm; sec. 18, Geo. Patchin on C. Engeland 
farm; sec. 19, R. Spears on K. Hustad farm; sec. 20, Geo. 
Schofield, Underhill brothers, David Thomas on Hefty 
and Durst farms. 

Brief sketches of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Spears with sup- 
plementary history is given elsewhere in this volume by 
their son, J. Anderson Spears. They were of sterling 
New England stock well fitted for the building of a new 
country. Mrs. Spears is described as being especially 
amiable and intelligent. A brother. Philander Nash, 
writes: " I remember her as a girl in school that she gen- 
erally spelled all others down. Her disposition was most 
mild and no one stood higher in people's estimation. At 
an early age she embraced religion, uniting with the 
Methodist church, and she lived her whole life a Christian 
above reproach." 

The privations of their first days in Primrose were in- 
deed many. With scant means, far from any other, cabin 
or village settlement, they bravely set to work to rear a 
home. Several small children had to be provided for. 
What added to their burdens was the necessity of keep- 
ing over night emigrants and others who passed by and 
of which there were many. Then, in 1847, came the cares 
of the postoffice. Mrs. Maria Norris, their daughter, 

" When my parents settled in Primrose they had no in- 
tention of keeping tavern, but they were forced to keep 
people as there was no other settlement near. The 
traveled road was on a ridge near by and teamsters in 


passing would see our cabin down in the hollow and come 
down, and solicit lodging. Father did not like to charge 
anything for this as he had no conveniences, but they al- 
ways pressed him to, saying it would not do otherwise. 
Sometimes they would stop as early as four o'clock in the 
afternoon; at other times they would arrive long after 
dark. Many a time was father obliged to get up at night, 
take his lantern and guide some traveler dowri who had 
left his team upon the ridge, and mother must get up to 
prepare supper, often for a house full of guests. Father 
and mother thus had plenty of company and were helped 
along financially somewhat, but it was hard work for 
mother as she had besides this care to do her own wash- 
ing and to spin, weave and make clothes for the family. 
Mother used to get very homesick and downhearted at 
times, thinking of her childhood home in Ohio and she 
away off in a wilderness. I was but a little girl at the 
time, but I remember her breaking into tears on receiv- 
ing letters from her playmates and family. The only 
other woman in the settlement for a time was Mrs. John 
Craft, who lived in ' Miller's Hollow.' " 

Numberless teamsters from the lead mines passed along 
the ridges at the time en route for Milwaukee and other 
points, and regularly quartered over night with Mr. and 
Mrs. Spears. This demand for accommodation caused 
Mr. Spears, in 1846, to erect a barn, the first frame build- 
ing in the town and which still stands. The siding used 
in this barn was hauled in one great load from Sauk 
county by pioneer John Jones. The little log cabin was 
also added to and made double. In short, the cabin be- 
came known along the route as the "Spears Tavern," 
ranking with the "York Prairie House" further on. 
While liquor was sold at all other taverns in those days, 
be it said to the credit of Mr. and Mrs. Spears, they never 
dispensed any, although a sure profit would have followed. 

Among the many travelers that stopped regularly at 


this tavern may be mentioned the mail carriers, Joe Pain 
and Mr. Eaton; Mr. Ludlow, of Monroe, then a peddler; 
Mr. Ryder of Blue Mounds; J. I. Case, a fanning machine 
agent; J. and Ed. Shook; "Tom" Haney, of Blue 
Mounds; Peter Parkinson, of Fayette; J. Miller, and 
Capt. James Biggs, of La Fayette county. It is interest- 
ing to note that in later years Prof. John B. Parkinson, of 
Madison, while on his way to and from the State Univer- 
sity and his home in La Fayette county, frequently 
stopped at this same tavern, and likewise the three 
Bashford brothers, from the same region, and that still 
later the world renowned Ole Bull, while once passing 
through the town, stopped and took a draught from its 
historic spring. 

In 1846, Christian Hendrickson, of 
Lier, Norway, settled in Primrose on 
the farm now owned by his son James, 
being thus the first Scandinavian settler 
in the town. In 1848, Nils Skogen set- 
^/S'^Bil^ tied on the Henry Samson farm, Salve 
"iBKjHl^^^ Jorgenson on the George Bowers farm 
wj^^^f^^ and Neils Einarson on the Jonas Os- 
christian Hendrickson. mundsou farm. lu 1849. Came Gunof 
The First Norwegiaq Settler. Tollefsou, G. Danielsott, Ole Dauielsou, 
Ole Tollefson, Peter P. Haslerud, Ole Anderson and Laif 
Olson, and soon many other Norwegians, among them 
Kittel Moland, Mons Ness. Kundt Bowerson, Lars Hol- 
verson, G. Stamn, Niels Olson, Paul Charleson, Filing 
Stamn, Knudt and Jens Olson. Ole Skuldt, L. L. Kolve 
and Mrs. Jackson and sons. Gunnel and George. During 
the years 1853-5 they came in still greater numbers. 

Owing to their greater poverty and helplessness, the 
sacrifices and privations suffered by these sturdy pio- 
neers were even greater than those of their American 
brethren, and their story was the common story of the 

Norwegian pioneer. But they were bound to succeed. 


Poor in everything but indomitable energy, they came 
here to rear homes and become good citizens and no ob- 
stacle was too great to be overcome. Thus Mr. and Mrs. 
Mons Ness, the first Norse family in the Sugar River 
Valley, began with a yoke of oxen, a wagon and a cow, 
and Mr. Ness was obliged to cut saw logs at once to ex- 
change for necessaries. Their little cabin was floprless 
for a time and raised from the ground, so their few sheep 
crawled under the logs and quartered with them. The 
sufferings of the Tollefson family were even greater. Mr. 
Tollefson's parents left their native place in Norway on 
foot with their six children and only one hundred and 
eighty dollars. Transportation to Havre, France, cost 
forty-eight dollars, and they landed in New York with 
barely one dollar, and yet Mr. Tollefson's father was the 
richest Norseman in the party. Fortunately free trans- 
portation was given them to Milwaukee and the winter 
was spent in Norway, Racine county. In the early spring 
young Gunof started west and by splitting six hundred 
rails was furnished a team to bring his people to Jefferson 
Prairie. Here a claim was made and lost and the family 
then journeyed to Beaver Creek, Boone County, 111., where 
the old couple died of typhoid fever. By working out six 
years young Gunof saved three hundred dollars, and by 
Mexican soldiers* warrants was able to buy his farm in 
Primrose. When, in 1850, he married Julia Gunhus, both 
were penniless but by hiring out during the summer they 
earned a team, wagon and a few tools and began life on 
the Primrose homestead. Mr. Hendrickson came to 
America in 1842, and worked four years in the lead mines 
at Wiota to pay his passage from Norway; and when he 
settled in Primrose he had but a yoke of oxen, a wagon, 
a cow and seventy-five cents capital. He was, however 
welcomed by the settlers who turned out and helped him 
build his cabin. 





The main phases of pioneer life are familiar enough 
and we will give but a passing glimpse or two. 

On the general subject ''Pioneering" we quote the fol- 
lowing from the able pen of W. W. Patchin. 

" It happens in every community, new or old, that some 
fail in the general attempt to obtain homes or amass pro- 
perty, either through shiftlessness, lack of ability or u n- 
favorable circumstances that cannot be remedied. And 
thus it happens that in the older settlements of the east 
many people act on Horace Greeley's advice, ' Go west, 
young man.* Among such people sorfie are so fond of 
change and adventure that the thought of going west or 
any where else gives them little trouble of mind. Indeed 
they are more uncomfortable if compelled to stay too long 
in one place. But on the part of most people, especially 
the real pioneer, it required genuine courage to break 
away from the old homestead, the old neighborhood, and 
every spot hallowed by early associations, and launch in- 
to the unknown * far west.' 

"If a married man, the pioneer probably pondered this 
matter of going west some time before broaching it to his 
wife. He might think, 'I have promised to love and cher- 
ish her. She should be protected rather than exposed to 
suffering, etc.* He might wonder if she could win the 
consent of her heart to leave the dear mother, perhaps 
never again to see her. 

"And this question of going west doubtless engrossed 
his thoughts by day and was his dream by night for weeks 
and months before the final decision. And after the die 


was cast, the Rubicon of this final decision passed, then 
the parting, the going, the long journey, with all its inci- 
dents, its hardships, its novelties, its strange sights; all 
these, would be the subject of his thoughts and conversa- 
tion until the day of departure. And so for a time life 
would be a medley of sad and joyous feelings alternating. 
There would be the consciousness of the pain of approach- 
ing separation, perhaps forever, and the happy anticipa- 
tion and hope of a home in 'the far land.' 

''While it required courage on the part of anyone 
making such a great undertaking, it required greater 
strength and heroism on the part of the pioneer wife than 
on that of the husband, for she must rise superior to her 
tenderer, greater love of home, friends, family, mother, 
in making the great sacrifice. All honor to the brave 
pioneers and especially to their heroic wives who endured 
so much to lay the foundations for the structure of society 
we to-day enjoy.''' 

Commenting on pioneer methods of farming Mr. 
Patchin says: 

*'Of course we cut all our grain at first with heavy 
cradles and bound it by hand. Oxen were first used to 
tread out the grain. A hard, smooth, circular track would 
be prepared on the dry ground. Two rows of bundles 
would then be laid down, top to top, on this. Then the 
oxen would be hitched to sweeps fastened at the center 
and driven around until the grain was treaded out. The 
straw would then be forked away, the grain, chaff 
and dirt gathered up and the process would be repeated. 
The grain was later cleaned by being tossed up in the 
strong wind. Later treadal threshing machines appeared, 
built for two horses. Then came the most curious of all 
machines of its kind — the old traveling threshing ma- 
chine. The cylinder of this machine was given its motion 
by the ground wheels and in order to thresh it was first 
necessary to heap on a load of bundles. Two yoke of 



oxen were hitched on and the machine movpd round 
about the field, leaving its trail of straw behind until a 
second loading was necessary. The first machine of this 
kind introduced into Primrose was brought in in the 40's 
by Stephen G. Hale, who in 1850 sold a half interest in it 
to J. W. Scoville, of Montrose, for $87. 

*'The first threshing I saw in Primrose was done by 
horses treading out the grain by traveling in a circle upon 
it. This mode of threshing was resorted to as often as 
necessity demanded a * grist.' And, by the way, the grist 
had to be taken a long way to mill. My father took his 
to Winnesheik (Attica) , though I believe the Badger Mill 
was then running, but unbridged streams intervened. As 
I said, the grain was cut almost wholly with the cradle. 
Some men could rake up and bind what another man 
could cradle. David Thomas was an exceptionally good 
• binder. I followed a cradle, but usually as Peter followed 
his Lord, — a good way off. I believe the first threshing 
machine employed by father was a two-horse tread power 
machine which left the grain and chaff upon the ground. 
This necessitated fanning mills. Every farmer had one 
after a while, but as a rule borrowed his neighbor's. 

" Horse teams were less common than ox teams because 
oxen were better adapted to the work of breaking the 
sod, their 'gearing' being more simple, and especially 
because their keeping in summer cost nothing more than 
the trouble of turning them loose in the evening and 
gathering them up in the morning. At noon they fed in 
the yoke. Sometimes professional breakers would appear 
with an immense breaking plow drawn by upwards of 
seven yoke of oxen, and which turned under all stumps 
and underbrush save the very largest. At times the plow 
would become so firmly wedged in a . stump that the 
* leaders' would be taken back and hitched on to draw it 
out. At night they turned their oxen loose and lay out 
herding them. Were any of the animals considered too 


wild they would be yoked together by twos, before turn- 
ing out. In the morning the man bringing them in would 
usually be as thoroughly soaked with dew as if dipped in 
a stream." These professional *' breakers " were also-oxen 


breakers, securing the services 6f the oxen a season 
to pay for breaking them. The breaking was an easy 
matter. Hitched to an enormous plow in the center of 
a string of well trained fellows, there was but one thing 
the poor brutes could do, — go ahead. 

One pleasant feature of pioneer life was the fraternal 
disposition of the settlers. This was shown especially in 
the matter of cabin building. On this point Mr. Patchin 

** Cabin buildings were usually most jolly seasons. The 
settlers welcomed the new arrival by helping him build 
his cabin and were glad of an opportunity to get together 
and help each other. In building, four good men, skilled 
with axes, stood on the growing building, rising log by 
log, one at each corner, to flatten and fit each his end of 
the log. During and after the raising there was generally 
considerable fun in one way or another, and afterward a 
' lunch ' if circumstances were at all favorable. When 
in 1846, the pioneers of the southern part of the town 
turned out to help Mr. Christ Hendrickson, the first Nor- 
wegian settler, build his cabin, so many of them suffered 
from the fever and ague that they could hardly raise the 
logs, but at dinner Hollis Crocker, of Montrose, found 
occasion to remark: 'Boys, there's no trouble with your 
lifting now.' But one day was required for the building 
of a cabin." 


My father, George Patchin, was born in Connecticut, 
August 6, 1806; my mother, Sophronia Nash Patchin, in 
Massachusetts, October 24, 1811. They were married in 
Ohio, in December, 1831, and in 1845 they came to Prim- 



rose with their family, traveling the entire distance in a 
lumber wagon. In the spring of 1846, they settled in the 
town of Springdale close by the " Big Spring" above Mt. 
Vernon, my father's being the first cabin in that valley, 
the Hale brothers building one about the same time fur- 
ther down. Father soon exchanged this place for that of 
Philander Nash's in Primrose, afterward owned by Josiah 

My pioneer privations began in earnest at the age of 
14, when I was made " mail boy " and obliged to carry the 
mail on horseback between Madison and Wiota. The 
country was wild at the time, the distance between houses 
being in one case seven miles. 

As we lived nearly equally distant from each of the lim- 
its we had to go to Madison to get the mail on one day, 
take it on to Wiota and back the next, and on the third 
take it back to Madison. Thus I rode on three successive 
days of each week, 44, 56 and 44 miles. At first I was well 
enough pleased, but the novelty soon wore off. The days 
grew shorter and colder and the pleasure gave way to dis- 
like and finally to real dread. I rode on horseback, had 
nothing but leather boots for my feet and iron stirrups to 
put them in, so that I froze them several times. In the 
February following my father sold the contract and I was 

I might relate many interesting experiences in this con- 
nection which, my being but a boy at the time, made a 
distinct impression upon me. I was frequently compelled 
to be out late at night, and on one cold evening returning 
from Madison, I stopped at Mr. Flick's, at Verona Cor- 
ners, to warm myself, and falling asleep was persuaded to 
remain overnight. I would often do^e in the saddle; prai- 
rie chickens would scare my horse so that I would nearly 
fall off, and at night I would watch the bushes for dread- 
ful things to spring at me. One evening returning from 
Wiota, about two miles past Capt. Jaines Biggs' place 


some hogs skulking in the grass frightened my horse so 
that he threw me and left me behind. I started for 
Green's Prairie about three miles away; I inquired for 
my horse there, but he not having been seen, I set out 
across the prairie for the home of William Spears, reach- 
ing there about 11 o'clock. The next morning I met my 
father and a neighbor hunting me up. The horse was 
found feeding at the roadside, having stepped over the 
rein with his hind foot. 

I carried a little spending money on my trips for emer- 
gencies, and one day finding a pair of buffalo overshoes at 
Wiota I bought them, expecting a scolding on returning 
home. In this respect, however, I was happily disappointed. 
These overshoes were perhaps the first introduced into 
Primrose, and my father was thoroughly reconciled after 
testing their comfort. 

As illustrative of small business, the postmaster at 
Madison would deduct a little from our quarterly pay if I 
failed to be "on time" with the mail. 

At that time there were about a dozen pine trees, some 
of them over a foot in diameter, growing on the Mt. Vernon 
bluff, and were a beautiful sight. The Mt. Vernon saw 
mill, the first in that section, was built by George Britts in 
1852, just between the present grist mill and the road. 
Mr. Britts, received the most of his help and his timbers 
from the farmers of Primrose. 

My mother, Mrs. Sophronia Patchin,died after a linger- 
ing illness of dropsy of the chest, Jan. .27, 1851. Her re- 
mains were buried on my fathers farm, a short distance 
north of the old log school house, but were later removed 
to Evansville, Wis. A large circle of mourners were pre- 
sent at the funeral,* besides father and five children were 
her two brothers and two sisters and their families. 
The funeral sermon was by Rev. J. E. Davis from 
Job 14:14: ** If a man die shall he live again: All the days 
of my appointed time will I wait till my change come." 


Hymns were sung, ** Asleep in Jesus" and ** Dearest 
mother, thou hast left us." 


As early as 1844, a wolf was killed near the house ot 
Robert Spears by Philander Nash. Early one morning 
Mr. Nash and MA. Spears heard the poultry making a 
great noise and looking out they saw a wolf near the hen 
house. Mrs. Spears handed her brother a gun from her 
bedroom, and he opened the door slightly and fired. The 
wolf jumped forward and fell, but soon got up and ran 
away, leaving a trail of blood. His front leg had been 
broken near the shoulder. Mr. Nash went to Millers 
Hollow, a mile southeast, and got Bob White and his two 
dogs. The dogs were put on the trail and in five minutes 
brought the wolf back. He ran around the house several 
times, attempting to get in, but the door was kept shut. 
After fighting the dogs awhile, he started off again but 
soon came back and crawled into a clump of willows, 
when Mr. Nash took an axe and killed it. 

Among the early settlers there was almost entire respect 
for the '* claims " of others. They still belonged to the 
government and any man mean enough could pre-empt 
one or pay the full price and the land was his. I recall 
only one instance of this dishonesty. Mr. Ford pre- 
empted the claim of his son-in-law, Wilmot Marston. For 
this Ford was given a frightful mauling one night by un- 
known ruffians, presumably the Marstons. But the set- 
lers became so indignant towards Marston for his treat- 
ment of Mr. Ford that a large number gathered one 

* Wolves were extremely numerous and troublesome to the farmers of Prim- 
rose until within the last twenty years. Liberal bounties have brought about 
their complete destruction. The number killed since that date are given: 
1875, by John Schwartz, 5; 1877, Moses E. Burns, of Exeter, killed 19 in the 
towns of Primrose and Oregon; 1879, Moses E. Burns, 9; 1882, N. N. Byrge, 1; 
1884, George Hendrickson, 8; 1885, N. S. Randall, 7 cubs caught in Perry and 
killed at Chairman Baker's house; 1887, N. S. Randall,5; 1888, N. S. Randall, 
6; 1891, Andrew Herth, 1; 1893, N. S. Randall, 7. 


evening at the Marston house, without notice to the family, 
to try to persuade Mr. Marston to make amends. Whether 
they succeeded or not I do not now recall but the two in- 
cidents served to deter others from lawlessness. 

Concerning this gathering, Mr. Philander Nash says: 
*' I was surprised to see so many men^ together. I could 
not imagine where they all came from. They looked a 
resolute set, and some of them must have come a great 
distance.** After this occurrence, Eliphalet and Franklin 
Thomas and I pooled our wits and composed a long dog- 
gerel song, set to the tune of * Old Dan Tucker,* celebrat- 
ing the event, which passed the rounds of the neighbor- 
hood. I recall but one stanza: 

" It was over a hill and in a hollow, 
An old man lived, — now mark what follows, 
He did pre-empt his son-in-law's claim, 
And the son-in-law said he'd mar his brain." 


" So get out of the county you heartless wretches. 
You stole his money tho' you left his breeches," etc. 

Thus we divided the honor of the laureateship with Mr. 

Concerning the first charivari, Mr. Patchin writes: 
. '*One of the first persons to die in the town after our 
arrival was Mrs. Joel Smith. Mr. Smith lived just across 
the road from our place. In due time Mr. Smith was 
again married, and as the Thomas boys had known him, 
when living in Ohio, to have been an enthusiastic leader 
to give newly married couples a *' horning,** we decided 
to let Joel try for once to see how it would be to be made 
the object of fun himself. So we took guns, tin pans and 
cow bells and went to enliven the night around his 
house. Bang! bang! bang! three guns, and then the pans 
and bells! and then — we ran — more frightned really for 
fear of being caught, than Joel and sweetheart. But the 
joke came in when I found that I had left my powder horn 
behind. I knew that Joel would find it in the morning if 


I left it, and would recognize it at once, so I got up very 
early and recovered it." 

Our early Primrose life was, on the whole, most enjoyable. 
Friendliness and hearty good will characterized society 
generally. People made no display in attending church. 
Religious worship was simple and sincere, people were 
not ashamed to come to church in wagons or on sleds 
drawn by oxen. In fact, this was the common mode of 
travel unless by foot. It has been said that if one would 
enjoy life thoroughly, he should always be on the frontier, 
and I believe there is, on the whole more of human kind- 
ness and sympathy and hence enjoyment among pioneers 
than is found in older and richer communities. 


David Thomas was born in Stafford, Vermont, Septem- 
ber 24, 1800. He removed to New York when a boy, and 
in 1826 married Miss Clarissa Bliss, of Victor, Ontario 
county, New York. In 1834 they removed to Geuaga 
county, Ohio^ and in the summer of 1847. with their 
eight children, came to Primrose, Wis. Father located 
on section 20. He acted as chairman of the town board 
for a year, and as justice of the peace off and on until 
about the year 1860. While filling this latter office he 
joined in marriage three couples, D. H. Eastman and 
wife, Joseph A. Britts and wife, and a Norwegian couple 
whose names I have forgotten. Father died in Primrose 
in 1871. 

The first school house in Primrose was a log cabin built 
by the settlers of the Spears settlement in the spring of 
1848, and the first term of school was taught by Miss 
Martha De Corso, of Utica, Wis. The house stood in the 
edge of a grove and was used as a school house until about 
1857, after which Ole Osmonson used it as a stable. When 
we first came to Primrose there were but two Norwegians 
in the town. Christian Hendrickson and his sister Mrs. 


Religious services in those days were held in the log 
school house and the farm houses, and were well attended. 
An incident of one comes to mind. We were seated one 
Sunday afternoon at service when an adder dropped from 
the ceiling and fell into Eunice Corbin's lap. She jumped 
up with a light scream and dumped it out on the floor, 
whence it slid through a knot hole and escaped. At an- 
other service, the enthusiastic preacher turned his eyes 
full upon me and said imppressively: **The serpent is 
always near thee, brother." I was sitting against the wall 
at the time and happened to glance around, when I saw 
an adder on the log right behind me. I beckoned to Mr. 
Holden, who was near, and he arose and with a knife sev- 
ered its head from its body. 

When we arrived in Primrose, we lived with Robert 
Spears until we could build. The settlement then con- 
sisted of Robert Spears and family, Geo. Patchin and 
family, Mr. Phillips and his two sons, Daniel and John, 
Edmond and Wm. Spears and their families, Samuel Nof- 
singer and family, Mr. Schoville and family and son-in- 
law, Wm. Underbill, Billings Lewis and family, Robert 
Herrington and family and Jacob Nofsinger and Jacob 
Beckner, single men. George Patchin and family lived 
on the La Follette farm, in a double log cabin which stood 
where the present frame house stands. 

Mrs. Joel Smith was the first person in the town to die 
after we arrived. Her remains were buried in the hill 
north of the old log school house (Rock Hill, ed.). 

The first winter after our arrival there was plenty of 
game. We often saw as many as thirty or forty deer in 
a drove. My brother Frank and I once came upon a 
small drove and I shot one. Frank wanted to shoot one 
too but I made him wait until I had loaded again when 
they were gone. At another time, on a New Years' Day, 
Frank and I and Wallace Patchin, while out hunting deer, 
saw some animals go into a hollow stub about 12 feet high, 


We Stopped up their hole and went home. The next day 
was Sunday but our fathers, Deacons Patchin and Thomas, 
and we boys, went back to the stub, thinking we had 
trapped bear. Frank and Wallace took home a neigh- 
bor's dog that we had borrowed and the rest of us went 
on. Becoming tired of waiting for them, we cut into the 
roots of the stub and took out our game, which proved 
to be **coon." There were five and we killed them 
before the other boys returned. In the meantime they 
had shot a deer, so on the whole we had good luck, but 
the two deacons came near being ** churched*' for break- 
ing the Sabbath, and Wallace Patchin writes: "Three 
boys were in danger of violating the scriptural injunction: 
* Let not the sun go down upon your wrath,* for we had 
had the solemn. Sabbath promise from the other boys and 
the deacons that they would not pitch into the fun until 
we got around.** 

A party of Indians were once encamped in our neigh- 
borhood in the early years and made themselves obnox- 
ious to the settlers by stealing- potatoes, chickens, etc. A 
committee was appointed to notify them that they would 
have to leave the country. They asked how many men 
would come to drive them off and were told " twenty,** 
"hump ** they replied "we no go for twenty.'* On the day 
appointed the settlers armed themselves and sought their 
camp but the enemy had disappeard, so that in a way they 
did not "go for twenty.** 

Some Indians once came to the cabin of "Billy** Under- 
bill (on the old Thomas farm), "Billy** was not in and 
his young wife being greatly frightened crawled under the 
bed and would not come out though they entreated her 
to do so. At length " Billy ** arrived on the scene. They 
told^him his "squaw was pretty but she wouldn*t come 

Wolves were numerous and ravenous. Farmers in 
going out to do their chores in the morning would often 


find that the snow around their log stables had been beaten 
into hard paths during the night by these animals trying 
to get at the sheep within. A young man named Luther 
Green claimed to have had a lively race for life with them 
one night, and exhibited sundry cuts in his coat made by 
a knife with which he defended himself. The most cele- 
brated hunters of the early days were Jacob B. Beckner 
of Primrose, *' Tom '' Bentley of Springdale and John B, 
Brown of Perry. 

One winter there was great excitement in our region 
over *'mad dogs,** a young man named Fairbanks had a 
hand to hand fight with one. He had no weapon but suc- 
ceeded in keeping it off by vigorous kicking. One dog 
came by our house and was seen to froth at the mouth and 
to have fits. The alarm was given and my brothers Eli- 
phalet and George came from the field and, after follow- 
ing the animal nearly a mile, killed it with a shot gun. 

Despite the fraternal disposition of the settlers which 
made life so pleasant, there were occasional exhibitions 
of ill will. One in particular I remember. A family 
named Marston lived in the Spears settlement. (Baker farm 
ed.) It was rumored that they were familar with ways 
that were dark. A little old man known as "Old Ford*' 
had put up a cabin rather too close by to suit the Mar- 
stons, (on the present Ole O. Lee farm — ed.) perhaps 
with the intention of jumping their claim. Be that as it 
may, one dark night the old man's cabin was torn down 
over his head and he was taken from his bed by unknown 
ruffians and dragged through the bushes and briars and left 
in a most forlorn state. It is needless to say that he did 
not rebuild his cabin nor press his claims to the land. 

Shortly after this occurrence a sensational article con- 
cerning the Britts family appeared in the New York Led- 
ger. It was reported that a gas cave had been discovered 
near Mt. Vernon and that while certain members of the 
Britts family were exploring it the gas caught fire from 


the pipe of one of them and the cave and the whole party 
was tlown up. The idea of the hoax originated with some 
enemies of the Britts* and as no such cave was known to 
the early settlers, the Britts' were simply blown up on 

In those days our mode of farming was necessarily very 
primitive. The grain was harrowed in with a wooden 
toothed harrow, a single shoveled plow, usually manu- 
factured by some blacksmith, was used for cultivating the 
corn, wheat was at first threshed out with a ** traveling 
separator*' which received its motion from one of the 
wheels and threshed while on the road, stopping to take 
on sheaves when necessary. 

Some of the farmers built their own wagons, wheels being 
made by sawing off a** cut*' from some oak log, each ** cut'* 
making one wheel. These wagons were known among 
the Norwegians as ** Kubberulles." They were clumsy 
affairs and made either night or day hideous with their 
doleful music. 

At first all grain was marketed in Milwaukee. Mr. Pat- 
chin, Hall Chandler, and father hauled many a load of 
wheat there, and received from forty to fifty cents a bushel 
for it. Two weeks were sometimes required for a trip, as 
they would often have to unload several times while on 
the way. While on the journey they camped out wher- 
ever night overtook them, sleeping under their wagons 
with their muskets handy. Mr. Patchin. Andrew Nash 
and many others also hauled a great deal of lead from 
the mining regions to Milwaukee, camping out in like man- 
ner. The greater part of the wheat was sold at Luding- 
ton's old warehouse in Milwaukee. In 1850 a market was 
established at Moscow, Wis., and wheat bought there at 
fifty cents per bushel. 


Ill — BY J. A. SPEARS. 

Robert A. Spears, son of a Revolutionary soldier, was 
born in Canada, July 24, 1814. Served a time in Co. H, 
8th Wis. Inf., during the war. Died Feb. 10, 1867. Buried 
at Belleville, Wis. Betsey Goold Spears (Nash), his 
wife, was born in Massachusetts, Dec. 10, 1814. Died 
Jan. 8, 1883. Grandmother Spears and her family and 
Grandfather Nash and his family moved to Geauga 
county, Ohio, where my parents met and were married 
April 11, 1838. Two children were born to them in Ohio, 
when in the fall of 1842, they set out for Wisconsin, with 
a horse team and a covered wagon. . Their son, J. A. 
Spears, the writer, was but six weeks old when they 
started on their perilous and tedious trip. They had a 
hard time getting through and I was once taken so sick 
that they had to lay over for a week on the road. Father 
brought with him his mother and his brother William's 
wife, William following soon afterward. The first year 
my parents settled in Monroe, Green county, Wis., and 
farmed it, when they moved to Green's Prairie and spent 
another year. In the spring of 1844, father took a pre- 
emption claim of 160 acres near the spring in Primrose, 
and built a log house. Their privations there can be 
better imagined than described, so I will not touch on 
them to any extent. On December 23, 1848, was born a 
brother. Perry N. Spears. He died in infancy, October 
15, 1850. There were ten children in our family, eight 
born in Wisconsin. 

Wheat was the staple on which the farmers depended 
and father hauled many a load to Milwaukee, often not 
getting enough to pay expenses, as the journey required 
from nine to twelve days. To help defray expenses he 
would make it a point to load back with goods for mer- 
chants. Just as father was beginning to see daylight 
ahead and the road began to look smooth, I burned up 
his stable and 300 bushels of wheat, father just getting 


his horses out in time to save them. Some of us children 
were playing with fire and it got the start ot us. At an- 
other time my sister saved my life from an angry sow who 
had downed me for stealing one of her pigs. It was a 
most fearful fright to me. 

Indians, bears and wolves were very troublesome. 
Father was often obliged to get up in the night to drive 
the wolves from his pig pen. Indians were not danger- 
ous but they camped around, begged, stole ears of corn 
for their ponies and dug up seed potatoes. Uncle William 
once gave $10 to some of them for a pony tor his son and 
the third night it was missing and was never seen again. 

Our luxuries were few. We had plenty of venison, and 
father kept a great many bees, but luxuries like salt her- 
ring and store molasses were indeed rare. Our clothing 
was home spun, of flax and wool, but we thought it fine 
enough. For the young folks there were plenty of dances 
from one cabin to another after a time, and on the Fourth 
of July the neighbors would often meet and some one 
would read the Declaration of Independence and make 
appropriate remarks while the young people would amuse 
themselves picnicking. 


I was born in the state of Tennessee in 1816, and came 
to Primrose in December, 1845. 

My father was drawn to the lead regions of northern 

Illinois and was killed by the Indians there in the Black 

Hawk War of 1832. I served in Fort Wiota as a guard 

of the women and children during that war. The year 

before this (1831) , I made a wagon trip with my brother 

** Wash '' from Wiota to Fort Winnebago. We went over 

the present road leading from Mount Vernon to Postville, 

which was then only an Indian trail, and carried with us a 

load of goods for the Indians and their last payment for 

their lands. We camped out wherever night overtook us, 


propping up our wagon pole with a stick and throwing a 
canvas over it for a tent. We came back around Lake 
Mendota at Madison, the region being then, of course, a 
wilderness. Madison then contained only one building, a 
small double log cabin occupied by a Frenchman and his 
Winnebago wife. In one end of his cabin, the French- 
man sold whisky to the Indians, gradually diluting it 
with water as they became more and more oblivious until 
finally he sold them pure water which passed all right. 

I brought the first span of horses to Primrose I believe. 
We had no roads in those days, of course, but we got along 
any way, all we needed was an ax to cut our way through 
the woods and a spade for cutting down the embankments 
of the streams in crossing. 

Wood and water determined cabin locations. The 
rivalry for rails was very strong as there was not then a 
quarter of the present amount of woods. Destructive 
prairie fires would sweep over the country. Game, especially 
of the smaller kind, was exceedingly plentiful, so much so 
that I have seen small knolls covered with rabbits and 
other small game during the progress of a prairie fire. 
Roving bands of Indians were quite numerous at first but 
they gave but little trouble. Our land was obtained at 
$1.25 per acre. We had to go to the land office at Mineral 
Point to get our deeds. The early settlers usually walked 
there and came back the next or the third day. When I 
came here, there were but three or four settlers in the town, 
the Spears brothers, Geo. Patchin, Robt. Herrington and 
Jos. Phillips, I think. They were strung along the ** Spears 
Valley" as we called it; Robt. Spears living on the pres- 
ent Knudt Hustad farm and his brother William on the 
present Ole Skuldt farm. The first school house in the 
town was built in the ravine, just between the present 
house and barn of Ole Osmundson. I helped to draw the 
logs for the same. The first marriage in the town was 
that of '* Billy'' Underbill and Miss Scofield, of Montrose. 


The next, that I remember, was that of Robert Herring- 
ton and Phoebe Phillips, and as I helped t<^bring this one 
about I will tell you what I remember of it. Phoebe was a 
daughter of Joseph Phillips and had already been married 
to a cousin named Phillips. For some misdemeanor this 
husband had disappeared or had landed in some peniten- 
tiary and Phoebe, having obtained a divorce wished to 
marry Herrington. The father objected to their scheme 
but was, as usual, outgeneraled by the young folks. One 
morning, in the winter of 1847, I started for Wiota with a 
load of corn, and coming by Herrington's, who lived on 
the present Baker farm, he stopped me and asked me 
if I could take him and Phoebe out to Squire Wheeler's, 
who lived in a log cabin upon a small hill near the pres- 
ent asylum in Verona. They wished to get married and 
as I had the only horse team in town he wished I would. 
I told him I thought I could' when I returned and was ac- 
cordingly told to hurry back and keep "mum" to Old 
Phillips. I was detained three or four days, however, but 
when i returned, I rigged out a little sleigh that my 
brother and I had built for running around in, and with 
this I finally brought them to their destination. 

The Indians all knew us Hale brothers and were afraid 
of us as they knew we hated them for killing our father. 
Once in the early days, my brother ** Wash" saw an In- 
dian chasing a deer over the hill past my cabin here. He 
took down his rifle and went out to meet him, but the In- 
dian was afraid and fled back westwards. ** Wash ** fol- 
lowed him until he reached their camp on the Barton 
farm. He walked right into the camp with his rifle on 
his shoulder and told the Indians they must " puccagee " 
(get out) . They feared us and in a day or two were gone. 


We append a most interesting letter from the pen of 
Miss Thomas (now Mrs. Parkinson) descriptive of the 


country school of that day and of the old-fashioned 
spelling schooL 

My first school in District No. 2 was held in a log cabin 
on Mr. Britts' farm and was arranged as it best could be 
for the accommodation of perhaps fifteen pupils. Seats 
in those days consisted of long plank benches ranged 
around the room, not very convenient nor comfortable, 
as some of the little fellows could testify to who had to 
occupy them, sitting with their feet dangling about half 
way to the floor. No wonder their little minds were not 
in a receptive mood at all times. The desks were nearly 
as primitive as the seats, consisting of slanting boards, 
fastened to the wall, not very convenient for exercises 
in penmanship, as the pupil had to turn around in order 
to get to the portion of desk allotted him. We had no 
black boards nor any of the helps and conveniences 
found in the pleasant school r6oms of to-day. 

In our early days in Primrose, spelling schools were the 
delights of young folks. Large crowds would flock to 
them on the bright winter nights. In the spelling school 
proper the usual mode of procedure was for two ** cap- 
tains" to cast lots to see who should have the first choice. 
The best spellers were usually chosen first, but sometimes 
if the " captain *' had a sweet-heart in the crowd she would 
be chosen first through courtesy. One person was ap- 
pointed to mark all the words missed on both sides. If 
one side missed a word and it came back to their side 
and was spelled correctly it was saved. After spelling in 
this way about an hour they would stand up to '* spell 
down.** One rule observed was that if one side missed a 
word and the other spelled it, the best speller on the los- 
ing side would be chosen to go over on the winning side, 
so that sometimes one ** captain" would be left standing 
alone. Another method was to have the one that missed 
sit down and the contest then became exciting as the 
number standing diminished. Finally the last hero or 


heroine of one side would go down and the contest was 
over. This ended, an intermission would follow which 
gave an opportunity for pleasant conversation and for the 
boys to get permission to see safely home the girls of 
their choice. 

The second part of the session was consumed in ''speak- 
ing pieces," holding dialogues, and enacting tableaux. 
The orations of our country's master minds would be 
strikingly reproduced at times and comic and pathetic 
renditions would be interspersed. 

Sometimes a blood-curdling tragedy would be played, 
one in particular was a favorite, in which an old Peruvian 
was dragged in, examined, questioned and finally cut 
down with a sword or shot dead on the spot and then 
dragged out. Such numbers served to keep up the ex- 
citement of the evening, Then the scene would change 
and an old man, bent with care and tottering under his 
weight of years, would enter. Clad in the garb of 
poverty, he presented a most pitiable spectacle as in a 
husky, trembling voice he would pray: 

" Pity the sorrows of a poor old man, 
Whose trembhng limbs have borne him to your door. 
Whose days are dwindled to their shortest span, 
O give relief and heaven will bless your store." 

Then the going home! Here a jolly sleigh load jingling 
along; there a happy loitering couple; here a merry party 
setting out on foot across the bright, white hills; and, 
lastly, the sedate old folks and the teacher bringing up 
the rear. No one who has ever experienced them can 
forget those happy winter nights with the hills and forests 
ringing with the songs, the shouts, and the responses of 
the parting friends. 

Well, the old spelling school is a thing of the past but 
its joys and memories still survive. 



Mr Joel Britts was the most extensive farmer of Prim- 
rose in his day, owning the present Konle and Lewis Rue 
farms. Young men out of employment could always turn 
to him for work. An interesting letter from his son 
Joseph A. Britts follows. 

My father, Joel Britts, was born July 5, 1806, in Bote- 
tojfflrt county, Va. He grew up there and, at the age of 
twenty-four married Saloma Nofsinger. In 1836 he moved 
to Montgomery county, Indiana: He lived there until the 
spring of 1848, when he moved with his family to Prim- 
rose, Wisconsin. It was on the 22nd day of May, 1848, 
that we came to a halt where the village of Mt. Vernon 
now stands. Father had came out to Primrose in 1847 
and had taken up two hundred acres of land which inclu- 
ded the present site of Mt. Vernon and had left money 
with uncle Jacob B. Nofsinger to pay for building a house. 
When we arrived in the following May the house was not 
completed and we stopped the first night with Uncle and 
and the next day moved to another uncle's, Sam Nof- 
singer's place, just above our old Primrose home. Soon 
after father bought the claim of Ed. Spears, sec. 8 (the 
present Konle farm, ed.) and we commenced the building 
of a larger house. 

Now my pioneer days began in earnest. Owing to so 
much other work as breaking, putting up hay, etc., our 
house was left unfinished and when we awoke on the mor- 
ning of November 1, 1848, we found it snowing heavily 
from the north-east. Ten inches of snow had fallen and 
it fell every other day for a month. We had the deepest 
snow that winter that I have ever seen. Deer and wolves 
were equally plentiful at the beginning of that winter, but 
at the end it was all wolves and no deer. The wolves 
being able to run on the crust of the snow killed off the 
deer. The same winter father hired a young man named 


John T. Berger to survey his land, and it was a good 
season for such work as we could walk on the crust but a 
sharp stick was needed going up or down hill. 


Mr. Berger was a Pennsylvania German and still lives at 

In the summer and fall of 1850, we built a log school 
house in our district. Wallace Patchin was my first 
teacher. Soon after school began father spoke of going to 
Madison and I put in to go along. I wanted to see the 
little town that was the capital of the state. Father did 
not like the idea of my staying out of school, and also 
said if I went I would have to put up a load of oats to sell 
as he had no money to pay hotel bills. I put up the oats 
and we set out. I was then thirteen years old and how 
well do I remember that ride! I remember how Josiah 
Matts, then living in a log cabin near Verona Corners, came 
out as we passed, smiling all over and after the handshak- 
ing and mutual inquiries of health, said he had had '* a 
streak of luck." He had been down to Badger Mills a 
few days before with a grist and the miller had told him 
if he would bring him a load of such wheat he would pay 
him the Milwaukee price for it. " So yesterday,'* he said 
*'I took down a load and got forty-five cents a bushel and 
I have the money right here," he added, slapping his 

Well, we got to Madison that day and sold the oats to 
Tibbetts & Gordon for twelve and one-half cents per. 
bushel. I carried them up stairs into a barn, then up a 
foot ladder and emptied them into a bin. I looked all 
over the little city of Madison and then went home to 

The gas cave story concerning our family was concocted 
by '* Steve'* Niles and ** Jim" Dudley, a pair of mischie- 
vous slinks. No, father never climbed " Devil's Chimney" 
but in 1850 he and Ephriam La FoUette climbed the high 
rock on the McCord farm near the big spring above Mt. 


In 1855, a family named Ho3rt came out from the state 
of New York and settled on the Byam farm just above 
ours (the present Lewis Rue farm,ed.) and soon one after 
another went down with t)rphoid fever until all but the 
father were prostrated. The mother and a ten year old 
son died and we buried them on a knoll just across the 
creek north-east of our house. A little brother of mine 
was also buried there. A lilac bush marks their graves. 

Primrose was an excellent stock and grain country in 
those early days. We raised some splendid horses, cattle 
and hogs and, though we had to cut our hay with a scythe 
and cradle our grain, we often put up one hundred tons of 
fine timothy and clover, and grain accordingly. Our society 
was better than 1 have ever known it since in a farming 
community, we had good common schools, as well as 
singing and spelling schools. We had a fine class of young 
people and I look back on my pioneer days in Primrose 
as the happiest of my life. I always had to work hard 
and knew something of privations but that only fitted me 
the better for after life, especially for the war, in which I 
and two younger brothers served for three years. Father 
died in 1876, mother in 1880. Father was a miller and 
followed the milling business up to the time he moved to 
Wisconsin. He was a man of good judgment, was methodi- 
cal in his business and strictly honest in his dealings with 
his fellow men. 


From Knud Langeland's work *' Nordmaendene i Amer- 
ika," we quote the following in regard to the coming of 
the Tollefson family to Wisconsin: 

'* When they arrived at New York, a man named Bakke 
gave them a passport to Milwaukee where they arrived in 
due season. This city was then on the outskirts of civil- 
ization and there were few Norwegians in Wisconsin, 
Tollefson and his family in company with Lars Domme- 


rud went to Muskego, where they met, among other 
countrymen, Even Heg, Reimert and Soren Bakke. 
Shortly afterward, he went further west and worked for 
one Sherwood who lived near Clinton in Rock county. 
ToUefson says: 

" I split six hundred rails in order that I might borrow 
Sherwood's wagon and yoke of oxen with which to bring 
my parents to Rock county. Being unused to driving 
oxen and being desirous of meeting my parents as soon 
as possible, I drove the animals too hard, and it was not 
long before they became tired and lay down and I was 
unable to move them. In this difificulty, I gave them some 
ears of corn and after a while they got up and walked 
forward after me. This happened oftener, and, at last, 
whenever the animals wanted corn they simply laid down, 
and before they received it they would not stir from the 
spot. I then conceived the idea of hanging a couple of ears 
of corn on my back and by walking before them induce 
them to travel. In this way I made some progress and 
finally reached my parents. On the home journey, we 
traveled more leisurely. I have often thought that Sher- 
wood showed me an unusual kindness and confidence in 
thus letting a newcomer and a stranger take his oxen for 
so long a journey and without knowing whether I could 
drive them or not. 

Being desirous that I might own a piece of land as soon 
as possible, I went to Primrose in 1849. Here I met Niels 
Einarson. There was plenty of land to be had, but how to 
find the description of what I had chosen was the question. 
After considerable search, we found a large oak tree a 
short distance east of where Norman Randall lives; on 
this tree we could plainly see these letters and numbers: 
N. W. }i, S. 23, T. 5, N. R. 7, E. There was neither pen 
nor paper to be had without traveling miles away and 
something had to be done immediately. I borrowed an 
axe of Einarson, cut down a little poplar tree, and hewing 


a piece thin and smooth took my jacknife and cut in it 
the letters and numbers exactly as they were engraved on 
the tree. With this poplar board under my arm, I walked 
to the land office at Beloit and laid it down with the nec- 
essary money. The clerks were greatly amused at my 
novel description and one of them cried: **Ha! Ha! Ha! 
boys, come down and see this Norwegian's description." 
They understood it, however, and I obtained the land^ 
Among other reminiscences Mr. Tollefson says: 
" When I first came here, the large oak trees in front 
of my house were so small that we used to spread our 
washing upon them to dry. Deer could be seen to graze 
in large flocks around our doors. Indians were numer- 
ous and a picturesque Indian village stood on the knoll 
between the Colby Cheese Factory and the river. • The 
Blue Mounds ridge road was traveled to considerable 
extent even then, and, wishing to meet our countrymen 
who might pass along upon it, Knudt Bowerson and I cut 
a path to it through the woods and nailed on a tree, a 
board with this inscription: '*Vil nogen mode med 
Norskere saa kom ned her." (If anyone wishes to meet 
with Norwegians, come down this way.) By this means 
many emigrants from our old fatherland were brought 
to us, among them old Bor Borson. When I came here 
the land was nearly all held by Mexican soldier warrants. 
I was the first to pay tax in money in the town. I could 
not raise the required six dollars in three towns and was 
afraid my land would be sold. While in this quandary I 
met Hall Chandler one morning and he said to me: 
" Gunof, have you paid your taxes yet?" "No," said I. 
" Well," he replied, *' I tell you what: You have two pigs, 
I have none. I have two wolf scalps over home. Give 
me one pig for them and you can get your money." I 
jumped at the chance, took the scalps and walked to 
Madison the next day, where I obtained the bounty and 
paid my tax. 


"When I came back, I saw a man cutting down trees 
on my land and I approached him to form his acquaint- 
ance. * Hello! how are you?' said he. * Have you bought 
this land?' *I have/ said I. 'All right/ said he, 'these 
logs are yours then. I supposed this was government 
timber, but if you have bought the land they are yours. 
Fd rather have a good neighbor than all the logs.' That 
was my first meeting with Hall Chandler. Two years 
later when I returned to take possession, the four logs 
were still lying where cut. 

" Like most pioneers, we stole all our timber for rails 
and buildings from the government lands. But we had 
to haul it away as soon as cut as anyone could claim it. 
Hall Chandler would set out in the morning with his oxen 
and split 50 rails till noon, loading them on as he split 
them, and repeat it in the afternoon. We fenced only 
our fields and meadows in those days, pasturing in com- 
mon, and the early records of the town are filled with 
notices of estrays. 

" I was the second man to buy land in Pi*imrose, Rob- 
ert Oliver, of Montrose, having previously bought eighty 
acres of the present O. Hanna farm. Salve Jorgenson 
offered me his claim of 160 acres for $20. He had broken 
four acres also, and had built a cabin 10x12 feet square, 
thatched with brush and sods, but I preferred the farm I 

" Before the coming of Elling Eielson to Primrose some 
of the Norwegians were distressed to see their children 
grow up long-haired and unbaptised. How to get them 
baptised was the question. Finally, in 1850, Rev. J. W. 
Dietrichson, of Koshkonong, offered to meet the farmers 
at Thore Spaanem's home, in Springdale, if they would 
raise $10 for him. By hard canvassing, the $10 was raised 
and the farmers hitched up their oxen and took their 
precious hopefuls to Springdale and had them baptised. 
I think John Hendrickson and Ole ToUefson were among 
those baptised/' 




The first white child born in Primrose was David, son of 
Mr. and Mrs. George Patchin, whose birth occurred No- 
vember 22, 1845. Other early births were: Perry N., son 
of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Spears, born December 23, 1848, 
George, son of Mr. and Mrs. Billings Lewis, 1849. The 
first child born to Norwegian parents was John Hendrick- 
son son of the first Norwegian couple in the town. 

The first of the pioneers to die was Mrs. Joel Smith who 
passed away within half a year after coming to Primrose, 
dying in March, 1848, doubtless from the privations 
endured in the long overland journey from Ohio. Her 
remains were buried on the farm near the site of the pre- 
sent Rock Hill Cheese Factory, nearly all the settlers 
turning out to this first sad funeral service. Other early 
deaths were Perry N. Spears, Oct. 15, 1850; Mrs. George 
Patchin, Jan. 27,1851; Mrs. Joseph Phillips, 1851; ''Grand- 
mother'* Spears, a Revolutionary widow, died at a great 
age in 1852. Mrs. Phillips' remains were buried in the 
town of Montrose a short distance east of '* Devil's 
Chimney." A burial ground, the first in the town, was 
early prepared just west of the site of the present Rock 
Hill Cheese Factory, and thither the pioneers took their 
first sad pilgrimages with their dead. Coffins were made 
at home from the black walnut trees of the forest and 
the graves were unmarked by monuments, flowers alone 
testifying of love and remembrance. 

As the early settlers moved away, the soil these dead 
had civilized was not allowed the peaceful mingling of 
their bones and the remaines were generally transferred 


by relatives to other cemeteries. The walnut coffins on 
being exhumed were often found in a good state of preser- 
vation. A most astonishing find was made in 1866, when 
digging into the grave of " Grandmother'* Spears, for the 
purpose of transferring her remains to Moscow, Wisconsin, 
the body was found to have petrified. In the removal, 
the head was broken from the body. Two graves still re- 
main untouched. They are to be seen under the wire fence 
by the road-side, but, neglected and unmarked, will soon 
be obliterated and forgotten like those of the dusky 
Indians before them. 


The first marriage to take place on Primrose soil was 
that of Wm. K. Underhill to Miss Mary Scofield, by 
** Squire " Nathaniel Wheeler, of Badger Prairie, Verona, 
Dec. 23, 1846. The wedding was celebrated at the little 
cabin of the groom's brother, Fred Underhill, a mile east 
of Robert Spears' home. 

William K. Underhill and his brother Fred came to 
Primrose from Philadelphia, where Fred had just mar- 
ried Elizabeth, a sister of Mary Scofield. William 
Underhill was a man of some education and was the poet 
of the settlement, writing many songs for occasions and 
being always ready to sing or play the violin. Miss Sco- 
field was but 14 years of age at the time of her marriage 
and is described as *' a very handsome and pleasant girl," 
an opinion shared by the Indians as Mr. Ashley C. 
Thomas tells in his reminiscences. Nearly all the settlers 
of the town turned out to make merry this first glad oc- 
casion of its kind in the settlement. The ceremony was 
performed in the afternoon of a bright winter's day. A 
supper followed, bountiful as the scant means of the day 
afforded, at which venison and vegetables, grouse and 
johnnycake were pressed upon the merry guests. No dan- 
cing was indulged in owing to lack of room but throughout 


the night the young folks held high carnival 
playing games while the genial bridgroom sang his joUi- 
est songs or convulsed the company with witty tales. 
Contrary to the traditional custom at backwoods weddings 
the officiating squire was not paid in butter or sausages 
made by the bride's own fair hands, but in cold cash. 

The next marriage in which both parties were from 
Primrose was that of Robert Herrington and Mrs. Phoebe 
Phillips, who were married by the same officer at his home 
in Verona. An interesting account of the event is given 
by Mr. E. S. Hale in his recollections. Other early mar- 
riages were: Philander Nash, Caroline L. Miles, December 
15, 1846, at Verona; Jacob B. Beckner, Mrs. Betsey Craft, 
December 13, 1847, by George Patchin; Wm. W. Day, 
Lucy Prince, February 23, 1848, by George Patchin; Jacob 
B. Nofsinger, Polly Ann Spears, March 11, 1848, by George 
Patchin; Stephen G. Hale, Mary D. Wright, January 25, 
1849, by A. Ogden, Madison; E. S. Hale, Mary Jones, May 
27, 1849, by J. B. Waterbury, Verona; Daniel Phillips, 
Alvina Nash, September 11, 1849, by George Patchin, 

Springdale; Joel Smith, Mrs. Kelley, 1849, at 

Attica, Wisconsin; B. F. Thomas, Jane R. Spears, Sep- 
tember 12, 1853, by J. E. Davis, Primrose. 

The first Norwegian couple married in the town was 
Jens Olson and Kari Skarhaug, who were married in 1851 
i by Mr. Gabriel Bjornson. Three years earlier. Nils N. 

Skogen had married Ellen at Clinton, Rock county, 

Wisconsin, after he had settled in Primrose. 




Among the earliest records found bearing on the town is 
a justices' docket kept by George Patchin who had been 
elected justice of the peace while the town was still a part 
of Montrose. The docket covers the years 1847-8. Sev- 
eral petty actions are recorded, chiefly in regard to debts 
and horse trading. The first entry is Oct. 15, 1847 and re- 
lates to a horse trading suit between Elisha Carver and 
William K. Underbill. 

When the first town meeting was held, Tuesday, April 3, 
1849, the clerks and inspectors of election were sworn be- 
fore Mr, Patchin. This historic first town meeting was held 
in the little log school house that had just been built and 
the poll list appended below shows who were present. 

Poll book of the first annual election held in the town of 
Primrose, Dane county, Wisconsin, 3d day of April, 1849. 
Voters names: Joseph Phillips, Robert Spears, Jonathan 
Prince, Stephen G. Hale, George Patchin, Charles Mars- 
ton, Joel Smith, William Spears, William W. Day, John B. 
Brown, Jacob B. Nofsinger. Daniel Phillips, Eliphalet 
Thomas, Freeman Fisher, Martin L. Ashmore, Robert 
Herrington, David Thomas, John Jones, Eldred. S. Hale, 
Billings Lewis, Samuel H. Nofsinger, H. C. Chandler, 
Henry Vanderbilt, Jacob Beckner, Joel Britts. 

The result of the first election was to give an office to 
almost each man. We submit a copy of the original 


For supervisors: David Thomas, chairman 22 

Samuel Nofsinger 22 

Freeman Fisher 23 


For Clerk: Robert Herrington 19 

For Assessor: H. C. Chandler 19 

For Collector and Treasurer: Billings Lewis 22 

For Superintendent of Schools: Joel Britts 23 

For Justices of the Peace: David Thomas 21 

B. F. Denson 22 

George Patchin 15 

Jonathan Prince 20 

M. Ashmore 7 

For Constables: Joel Smith 22 

J. B. Brown 23 

J. B. Nofsinger 15 

W.W.Day 4 

For Overseer of Roads: Robert Spears 12 

We the undersigned clerks of the board of electors 

hereby certify that the foregoing is correct. 

Robert Herrington, 

Joel Britts, 

David Thomas. 

This 3d day of April, 1849. 

The honor of being the first office holder in the town 
after its organization, doubtless belongs to Robert Her- 
rington, who on April 11, was sworn in as town clerk be- 
fore Justice George Patchin. On the same day. Treasurer 
Billings Lewis and Constable Joel Smith were also sworn, 
in before Mr, Herrington. The officers elected were sworn, 
some before Justice Patchin, and some before Mr. Her- 
rington, in the following order: April 13, David Thomas, 
chairman; Hall C. Chandler, assessor; April 14, Freeman 

It would appear, however, that office -holding did not 
exercise that singular fascination over those sturdy 
pioneers that it does over their successors, for on the 7th 
day of May the following petition, signed by twelve 
voters, was laid before the town clerk: 


To the Clerk of Primrose: 

We, whose names are hereunto affixed being duly quali- 
fied voters in said town, do request you to notify a special 
town meeting for the purpose of filling vacancies which 
have been made by non-acceptance of office. Also to see 
if the town will vote to raise money to defray the charges 
and expenses arising in the town, and all other business 
necessary to be done. 

In obedience to this petition, a special election was 
called, and on May 29 thirteen voters appeared at the 
school house and voted as follows: 

For supervisor, J. B. Nofsinger received 13 votes. 

For school superintendent, Joel Britts received 12 votes. 

For justice of the peace B. F. Denson received 5 votes. 

For constables, Wilmot Marston received 8 votes and 
J. B. Brown 5 votes. 

For sealer of weights and measures, Joel Britts received 
4 votes. 

Of these officers John B. Brown was sworn in on the 
same day; Wilmot Marston on June 4, and Jacob B. 
Nofsinger and Joel Britts on June 6. 

The next election was held September 3, of the same 
year, when twelve voters assembled to vote for a county 
judge. Three candidates were voted for, John Catlin re- 
ceiving two votes, Joseph Prentiss two, and Julius T. 
Glark eight. 

If the argument that the exercise of suffrage is con- 
ducive to intelligence and good citizenship, then the 
pioneers of Primrose certainly had a rare opportunity for 
benefiting themselves, for on the 6th of November we 
again find them at the polls, holding now the fourth elec- 
tion in the first year of the town's history. As this was 
for the election of state officers, we might expect a full 
attendance, and such we find to be the case. The twenty- 
five voters entered on the poll list for the first election. 


were all present save two. A partial result of this elec- 
tion follows: 


For Governor: Alexander L. Collins 9 

Nelson Dewey *. 13 

For equal suffrage to colored persons, Yes 8; No 9. 

David Thomas, Chairman, 

Freeman Fisher, 

Joseph Phillips. 


Robert Herrington, 

Charles Marston, 

November 6, 1849. 

The political complexion of the town at the time may 
be gathered from the result. On the question of granting 
equal suffrage to colored persons which was then submit- 
ted to the people there appears to have been some indif- 
ference and less pronounced views. 

The expenses of the town for the year 1849 were $63.00, 
of which Robert Herrington received $12.25 for services 
as town clerk, and Joel Britts, as town superintendent, $13. 
Ten dollars were voted for town expenses and ten for 
schools. The chief work done by the first town board 
was the laying out of a road, June 27, 1849, from the south- 
west corner of the town to the northeast corner. J. T. 
Berger acted as surveyor. Other surveyors of the early 
days, to digress a moment, were Hall C. Chandler, James 
Edi and G. W. Reilly. 

The laying out of roads was the chief work of the town 
boards for the first dozen years. Roads were chiefly estab- 
lished by pioneer usage before they were legalized. As 
one old settler says ''wherever a spring was found, there 
a cabin was built and the location of the cabins determined 


largely the first roads/' One of the first established was 
the road running northward past the Town Hall to Mt. 
Vernon, another, the one running east and west between 
sections sixteen and seventeen from Chandler s to Josiah 
La Follette's. October 6, 185U a road was established 
from the Blue Mounds and Monroe road to the Madison 
and Wiota road, running between sections five and eight. 
The greater number of these early roads have been re- 
laid and changed at various times. 

At the second town meeting (1850) Joseph Phillips was 
elected chairman of the board of supervisors. 

One of the most important things done at this second 
town meeting was the passing of the following resolution: 

Resolved, That we. whose names are hereunto affixed, 
do agree to protect each and every citizen in his claim 
and residence who will pay the sum of $5.00 on each 
quarter section so claimed, and in proportion to the value 
or amount of claims on smaller parcels, which shall be 
paid on the subscription of such claimant for the purpose 
of aiding to pay the taxes assessed on resident citizens' 
land to defray the town expenses; and, further, that we 
do not agree to protect any man's claim who refuses to 
comply with the foregoing. 

Joel Britts, B. Lewis, 

Jos. Phillips, Jacob B. Beckner, 

M. L. Ashmore, Robt. Herrington, 

Benj. F. Denson, David Thomas, 

S. H. Nofsinger, John Jones, 

Lars Holverson, George Patchin, 

Robt. Spears, Anon Jorgen, 

Stephen G. Hale, Christian Hendrickson. 

Edmond Spears, Reuben Selby, 

Nils Olson, Dan'l Phillips. 

H. C. Chandler, Eldred Hale, 

Wm. Spears, Charles Marston. 

Jos. Vandike, 


It appears that some of the settlers were in danger of 
losing their lands through claim jumpers, and hence the 
fraternal bond was signed. The resolution became noted 
in the early town's history as the " Club Law." 

It was soon demonstrated that this action on the part 
of the settlers was a wise one. Early the next year, 1851, 
they were unexpectedly called upon to deal with a case 
which for a time threatened to create open warfare with 
a neighboring town. 

Albert Bowker, of Montrose, had cut down some logs 
on Widow Jackson's farm, at present owned by H. Hoesly. 
Knowing that a gang of men would come to haul them 
away, the Primrosians determined to forestall them, and, 
in obedience to the " club law,*' they spread the " message 
of war *' and rallied at night. They elected Nils Olson, 
who lived on S. Ellingson's farm, as captain, and set out 
before daylight to be on hand in good season. Early as 
they were, however, they found the Montrosians there 
ahead of them with one large log already loaded which 
they were hauling away. Capt. Olson stepped up before 
the Montrose team and raising his axe above his head 
yelled, ** Whoa!'* He then shouted to Mr. Gunof Tollef- 
son: "Gunof, drive up alongside there with your sleigh.'* 
Tollefson obeyed, and the log was promptly shifted from 
the Montrose to the Primrose sleigh. The captain of the 
Montrose forces blustered, and to show his defiance began 
cutting at the root of a large tree. The Primrose cap- 
tain, who was a monster in size and a man not to be 
'* bluffed," then sprang forward and began cutting at the 
tree over his small opponent's head saying, tantalizingly, 
'* I will cut over your head and you can have the stump." 
Being a foreigner, perhaps Olson did not speak very 
plainly. At any rate, the Montrose captain retreated, 
charging Olson with having threatened to cut off his 
head, saying: " I'll have him in Madison in the morning." 
The Primrose men then hauled the logs' into a pile and 


soon had the pleasure of seeing the would-be depredators 
go home empty handed. 

The town officers since 1849, as nearly as can be ascer- 
tained from the records, are given below. 

1850 — Joseph Phillips, chairman, John Jones, Edmond 
Spears; Robert Herrington, clerk; Billings Lewis, treas- 
urer; Hall C. Chandler, assessor; Joel Britts, T. superin- 
tendent; Billingis Lewis, S. H. Nofsinger, constables; Joel 
Britts, sealer wts. and m. 

1851 — H. C. Chandler, chairman, Peter Peterson, S. H. 
Nofsinger; Jos. Phillips, clerk; Benj. F. Denson, assessor; 
Billings Lewis, treasurer; Joel Britts, T. S. and sealer; 
Lars Holverson and S. G. Hale, road overseers. 

1852 — H. C. Chandler, chairman, Peter Peterson, S. 
H. Nofsinger; J. La Follette, clerk; B. Lewis, treasurer; 
H. C. Chandler, assessor; W. G. Dudley, T. S.; Joel 
Britts, sealer; Lemuel Green, Jos. Phillips, justices. 

1853 — Josephus Chandler, chairman, A. Sanderson, B. 
Lewis; J. La Follette, clerk and assessor; Norman Rand- 
all, treasurer; W. G. Dudley, T. S.; Ben. F. Thomas, con- 
stable; David Thomas, justice. 

1854 — Josephus Chandler, chairman, Billings Lewis, 
David Thomas; F. F. Abbott, clerk; N. Randall, treas- 
urer; J. La Follette, assessor; W. G. Dudley, T. sup't. 

1855 — Josiah La F^oUette, chairman, G. Tollefson, 
Jos. Phillips; H. M. La Follette, clerk, resigns and W. G. 
Dudley appointed; Gunnel Jackson, treasurer; N.Rand- 
all, assessor; Chas. A. Judd and Peter Bell, justices; Bill- 
ings Lewis, T. sup't. 

1856 — John L. Lewis, chairman, N. Randall, B. Lewis; 
H. M. La Follette, clerk, resigns and H. A. Smith ap- 
pointed; Jos. A. Bell, treasurer; N. Randall, Thomas D. 
Francis, T. S. 

1857 — Josephus Chandler, chairman, Freeman Ash, 
Thos. Nelson; H. A. Smith, clerk; G. Tollefson, treasurer; 
Joel Britts, T. S. 


1858 — Norman Randall, chairman, Freeman Ash, 
Peter Bell; F. F. Abbott, clerk; G. Tollefson, treasurer; 
D. H. Eastman, T. S. 

1859 — G. Tollefson, chairman, on resignation of H. M. 
La Follette; H. A. Smith, clerk; W. C. B. Weltzin, treas- 
urer; B. S. Jain. T. S. 

1860 — H. M. La Follette, chairman, G. Tollefson; H. 
A. Smith, clerk; W. C. B. Weltzin, treasurer; Benjamin 
Jain, T. S.; David Thomas and Peter Bell, justices. 

1861 — Moses Chandler, chairman, Thos. Nelson, C. F. 
Weltzin; F. F. Abbot, clerk; W. C. B. Weltzin, treasurer; 
N. Randall, assessor; Geo. W. Reilly, T. S. 

1862 — D. H. Eastman, chairman, C. F. Weltzin, G. 
Tollefson; F. F.Abbot, clerk; W. C. B. Weltzin, treasurer; 
K. Bowerson, assessor; G. W. Reilly and Thos. Newton, 

1863 — Moses Chandler, chairman. Thos. Newton, G. 
Tollefson; W. C. B. Weltzin, treasurer; K. Bowerson, as- 
sessor; Randolph Fairbank and Freeman Ash, justices. 

1864 — N. Randall, chairman, Thos. Newton, G. ToUf- 
son; W. C. B. Weltzin, clerk; C. F. Weltzin, treasurer. 

1865 — Moses Chandler, chairman, Thomas Newton, G. 
Tollefson; W. C. B. Weltzin, derk; C. F. Weltzin, treas- 
urer; K. Bowers, assessor. 

1866 — George Fulton, chairman, Christ. Hendrickson, 
Thomas Chantland; S. Holland, clerk; O. S. Holland, 
treasurer; C. J. Weltzin, assessor. 

1867 — George Fulton, chairman, Christ. Hendrickson, 
Thomas Chantland; S. Holland, clerk; O. S. Holland, 
treasurer; C. J. Weltzin, assessor. 

1868 — George Fulton, chairman, G. G. Hanna, Christ. 
Hendrickson; S. Holland, clerk; G. Tollefson, treasurer; 
K. Bowers, assessor. 

1869 — S. Holland, chairman, Eli Peterson, G. G. Gun- 
hus; G. G. Hanna, clerk; T. Thorstenson, treasurer; K. 
Bowers, assessor. 


1870 — S. Holland, chairman, G. G. Gunhus, John Hol- 
lar; W. C. B. Weltzin, clerk; N. N. Byrge, treasurer; K. 
Bowers, assessor. 

1871 — W. C. B. Weltzin, chairman, G. G. Gunhus, K. Pe- 
terson; Ole Barton, clerk; Wm. L. Hollar, treasurer; G. 
ToUefson, assessor. 

1872 — W. C. B. Weltzin, chairman, resigned and Chas. 
Dixon appointed, P. O. Baker, K. Peterson; Ole Barton, 
clerk; N. N. Byrge, treasurer; D. H. Eastman, assessor. 

1873 — Chas Dixon, chairman, P.O. Baker, T.Simon- 
son; Ole Barton, clerk; N. N. Byrge, treasurer; D. H. East- 
man,- assessor. 

1874 — Eli Pederson, chairman, T. Simpnson, H. H. 
Rindy; O. G. Stamn, clerk; Jno. Peters, treasurer; G. Tol- 
lefson, assessor. 

1875 — W. C. B. Weltzin, chairman, Ole Barton, P. O. 
Baker; O. G. Stamn. clerk; Ole Osmundson, treasurer; Eli 
Pederson, assessor. 

1876— W. C. B. Weltzin, chairman, Ole Barton, P. O. 
Baker; O. G. Stamn, clerk; J. G. Hanna, treasurer; Eli 
Pederson, assessor. 

1877 — M. F. Van Norman, chairman, D. H. Eastman, 
P. O. Baker; Ole Barton, clerk; Ole Osmundson, treasurer; 
Eli Pederson, assessor. 

1878 — M. F. Van Norman, chairman, D. H. Eastman, 
P. O. Baker; Ole Barton, clerk; Ole Osmundson, treasurer; 
Eli Pederson, assessor. 

1879 — P. O. Baker, chairman, H. H. Rindy, D. H. East- 
man; Ole Barton, clerk; Ole Osmundson, treasurer; Eli 
Pederson, assessor. 

1880-81 — P. O. Baker, chairman, O. P. Myrland, N. O. 
Holman; Ole Barton, clerk; H. H. Rindy, treasurer; Eli 
Pederson, assessor. 

1882— P. O. Baker, chairman, O. P. Myrland, A. S. Hol- 
land; Ole Barton, clerk, H. H. Rindy, treasurer; Eli Peder- 
son, assessor. 


1883 — P. O. Baker, chairman, M. Hobbs, L. E. Lewis; 
Ole Barton, clerk; N. N. Byrge, treasurer; Eli Pederson, 

1884 — Same as 1883 except, H. H. Rindy, assessor. 

1885 — P. O. Baker, chairman, M. Hobbs, O. E. Stamn; 
N. N. Byrge, clerk; G. G. Stamn, treasurer; Eli Pederson; 

1886— P. O. Baker, chairman; M. Hobbs, H. H. Rindy; 
N. N. Byrge, clerk; G. G. Stamn, treasurer; Eli Pederson, 

1887-88 — P.O.Baker, chairman, O. E. Stamn, John 
Tascher; W. C. B. Weltzin, clerk; G. G. Stamn, treasurer; 
Eli Pederson, assessor. 

1889 — Ole Barton chairman, O. E. Stamn, M. Hobbs; 
W. C. B. Weltzin, clerk; G. G. Stamn, treasurer; Eli Ped- 
erson, assessor. 

1890 — Ole Barton, chairman, Chas.Danielson,M. Hobbs; 
W. C. B. Weltzin, clerk; Wm. Dahl, treasurer; Eli Peder- 
son, assessor. 

1891 — Ole Barton, chairman, C. Danielson, Chr. Enge- 
land; W. C. B. Weltzin, clerk; Wm. Dahl, treasurer; Eli 
Pederson, assessor. 

1892 — Ole O. Stamn, chairman, Chr. Engeland, John 
Tascher; W. C. B. Weltzin, clerk; Wm. Dahl, treasurer; 
Eli Pederson, assessor. 

1893 — Ole E. Stamn, chairman, Chr. Engeland, M. 
Hobbs; W. C. B. Weltzin, clerk; Wm. Dahl, treasurer; Eli 
Pederson, assessor, 

1894 — Ole Barton, chairman, Gullik Anonson, C. Dan- 
ielson; W. C. B. Weltzin, clerk; Wm. Dahl, treasurer; Eli 
Pederson, assessor. 

1895 — O. E. Stamn, chairman, G. Anonson, C. Daniel- 
son; Wm. Dahl, clerk; G. S. Engen, treasurer; Eli Peder- 
son, assessor. 






The need of postal facilities was early felt by the pio- 
neers and was remedied through the efforts of Robert 
Spears and George Patchin, by the creation of Primrose 
post office, April 29, 1847, with Robert Spears as the first 
postmaster, and his cabin home as the post office. It was 
this post office (as we have noticed) , which later gave the 
name to the town. Although her husband was commis- 
sioned postmaster, it was Mrs. Spears' distinction to pre- 
side over the office and to distribute the mail to the 
expectant neighbors on their weekly gathering at the 
office. A mail route was established from Madison via 
Primrose, to Wiota (La Fayette County) , a distance of 
fifty miles. Mr. George Patchin took the first contract 
for carrying the mail for $160.00 per year, trips to be made 
weekly. He associated with him Mr. Fred Underbill who 
furnished a horse and its keeping while Mr. Patchin fur- 
nished the " mail boy " in the person of his son Wallace, 
then fourteen years old. Trips were made on horseback. 
About the same time a line was established between Blue 
Mounds and Monroe, on the Blue Mounds and Exeter 
Ridge road. Mr. Patchin was succeeded as mail carrier 
by ** Joe*' Pain and the latter by J. Eaton, a historic figure 
who served a long term. Changes in the postmastership 
have been many: Sept. 16, 1850, George Patchin became 
postmaster; June 21, 1851, Robert Spears again took charge; 
May 26, 1854, David Ash; May 11, 1865, Freeman Ash; 
May 24, 1867, William L. Hollar; Feb 13, 1868, John Hol- 
lar. On Nov. 22, 1870, Jacob G. Hanna was appointed 
postmaster and the office was removed to the center of 


the town. Changes in the postmastership since are: Feb. 
1, 1877, Annie G. Hanna; March 29, 1887, Lars Peterson; 
May 2, 1887, Ole Peterson; Dec. 19, 1889, William Dahl. 


The early pioneers of Primrose were not slow to appre- 
ciate the value and advantages of schools. In the fall of 
1847 we find them in the woods cutting and hauling out 
logs for a school house. The building erected was a small 
one and stood about midway between the present residence 
and barn of Ole Osmonson. A grape vine now marks the 
exact site of the first temple of learning built on Primrose 
soil. Who the first teacher was is a matter on which the 
memory of the early settlers disagree. The honor appears 
to lie between Miss Martha De Corso of Utica, Wisconsin, 
and William K. Underbill, with the probabilities in favor 
of the former. No records have been found to settle the 

In 1857, this building was given up as a school house 
and a new one of frame was built just back of the present 
Rock Hill Cheese Factory, the old one being stultified into 
a stable. In 1873 this second building was removed to 
its present site. Among those who have been employed 
as teachers of this school may be mentioned Mrs. R. G. 
Siebecker and Mrs. Florence Campbell Reed, the popular 
author of Madison. R. M. LaFollette was a pupil of this 
school as late as 1873. 

On the organization of the town Mr. Joel Britts as 
superintendent of schools promptly set to work to redis- 
trict the town and to urge the erection of new school 
houses, and soon four more cabins dedicated to education 
were in process of construction. 

The districts as organized by him have, naturally, all 
undergone numerous transformations since. 

On March 6, 1850, the following report of District No. 1 
appeared: No. of pupils who have attended during year, 


26. School taught three months by Nathan A. Munn. 

Wages paid (by special act) per month, $13. Resident 

children of school- age in District No. 1, Primrose, male, 

18; female, 8. 

George Patchin, Clerk. 

On Sept. 1, 1850, reports were received by the town 
clerk from all the districts as follows: 

Dist. No. 1, No. of pupils who have attended, 48. School 
taught six months, by N. A. Munn, at $13.33; by Adora 
Doolittle, at $6; money received from town superintend- 
ent (by special act), $38.33; money raised by district, 
$18.00; all paid for teachers wages. Log school house on 
state land, worth $50.00; has no conveniences for pupils. 
Books used: •McGuffey's Readers, Kirkland's, Grammars, 
Olney's Geography, Adam's and Smith's Arithmetic, 
Webster's Spellers. 

District No. 2 — Pupils, male 16, female 6; No. who 

have attended, 20. School taught three months by Mary L. 

Thomas at $5.00 per month. Days lost by absence, 586. 

Books used: McGuffey's Readers, Webster's Spellers. 

Log school house, not finished. 

Wm. G. Dudley, Clerk. 

District No. 3 — Pupils, male. 8; female, 7. School 
taught three months by Almira M. Comstock at $1.25 per 
week. School visited by board three times; by superin- 
tendent two times; by parents three times. Log house 
with stone chimney. Books used: Sander's Readers, 

Webster's Speller's. 

Jos. Phillips, Clerk. 

District No. 4 — Pupils, male, 13; female, 14. No school 
taught this year. Money raised by free will of people, 
$7.50. House of logs, hewed and raised and nothing 
more. Money all gone to house; site one acre. 

G. Jackson, Clerk. 

District No. 5 — Pupils, male, 14; female, 13. No school 

this year. 

John Copsey, Clerk. 


At the same time Sarah E. Wildeman taught the first 
school in the town of Perry (District No. 6), at $5.50 per 
month. It is interesting to notice with what solicitude 
her experiment on the minds of the young hopefuls of 
the Buffalo town was watched, as in her short term of 
three months, she was twice visited by the town superin- 
tendent, ten times by parents and ten times by the officers, 
an example to be commended to the parents of to-day 
who have the welfare of their children and of the public 
schools at heart. 

What an interesting spectacle one of these early schools 
would be to our eyes to-day! The little log school house 
with its stone chimney and surrounded by the green walls 
of the forest; its desks and straight backed seats formed 
of split logs; what a contrast to the comforts of the country 
school house of to-day! And yet there is reason to be- 
lieve that the attendance and scholarship in the earliest 
days was almost as high as the present, which is perhaps 
to be accounted for by the fact that the majority of 
the pioneers of Primrose were Americans and of an in- 
telligent, public spirited class. In one respect, the schools 
of the present have an advantage — they have better 
teachers. In pioneer days the teachers were chosen 
promiscuously from among the young people of the 
neighborhood. Often the only test of one's qualifications 
to teach would be the signature of the applicant s name, 
around which the board would gather, in all gravity, and 
exchange weighty opinions, as to its proofs of ability. These 
teachers were paid one dollar a week and upwards, and 
usually had the pleasure of ** boarding around." The 
patience that these early martyrs to the diffusion of 
knowledge possessed is shown in the case of the first 
teacher in District No. 2, whose wages ($1.25 per week in 
1849) had risen, in the same district, after ten years of 
toil and expectation to the handsome sum of $14,00 per 
month, over 100 per cent. 


Their proficiency can be judged from a report sent by 
one '* school ma'm " to a parent, in which, traced in 
labored pothooks, she informs the father that his child 
has made good progress in ** wrighting and spelling." 
Spelling was in fact the one branch cultivated with gen- 
eral avidity. Next to this came declamation, — and thanks 
to McGuffey's Readers, their spirited speeches of Web- 
ster and Clay, in favor of liberty and union, reproduced 
at the spelling schools, kindled the first sparks of patriot- 
ism in many a breast and brought many to the support of 
the old flag in the crisis of '61. 

The first school in District No. 2 was a three months* sum- 
mer term taught by Miss Mary L. Thomas, daughter of 
David Thomas, the first town chairman. The school was 
held in a small log cabin on the Lewis Rue farm, the site 
being marked by a few burr oaks just west of Mr. Rue's. 
Joel Britts had built this cabin for some purpose or other 
but had left it unfinished, and while the new school cabin 
was being built on the present school site, this one was 
improvised for temporary use. Miss Thomas' wages were 
$1.25 per week. An interesting letter from her descriptive 
of the school is found elsewhere. Her school opened on 
May 27, 1850, and twenty pupils ranging in age from four 
to eighteen years crowded into the little cabin. The 
pupils were from the Britts, Dudley, Ashmore, and Jones t* 


The next year a three months summer term was taught 
by Miss Almira Comstock, who taught for many years 
throughout the town. 

William Wallace Patchin, son of George Patchin fol- 
lowed, teaching the first winter term in the new school 
house. Mr. Patchin^was then nineteen years of age and 
had spent the summer of 1851 at school in Grass Lake 
Academy, Michigan, being thus the first Primrose youth 
to push on for a higher education than local means afford- 
ed. That this action was appreciated by his neighbors 


is evidenced by his being paid the extravagent sum of $12. 
per month and board, and by the presence of the first 
teacher, Mary L. Thomas, as a pupil under him. About 
the same time, Caroline E. Thomas, of Primrose, opened 
the first school in what was later known as the ** Martin" 
District, Blue Mounds. 

It may be interesting to trace the various steps in the 
building of a school house, and accordingly we include a 
few entries f ron the records of District No. 2, the only dis- 
trict that contains complete records from date of organ- 
ization. The records though few, reveal much, and we let 
them speak for themselves. 

We Joel Britts, William G. Dudley, clerk, John Jones, 
director, and M. L. Ashmore, treasurer, agree to build the 
school house in the northeast quarter of the southwest 
quarter section 6. Log house, 16x18 feet, hewed inside. 

Primrose, Dec. 22, 1849. 

Log subscription — Joel Britts, 10; John Jones, 4; Sam- 
uel H. Nof singer. 4; Jacob Beckner, 6; M. L. Ashmore, 8. 
Total, 32. 

The above is a list of logs to be delivered on the site 
of the district school house, each person whose name 
supersedes the number of logs to get one half such num- 
ber 18 feet long and the other half 20 feet for district 
No. 2 in the town of Primrose. The price of the logs is 
40 cents per log. 

The above agreement and subscriptions were made at 
the house of Joel Britts, Dec. 22, 1849. 

February 20th, 1851. 
To Samuel Nof singer, a taxable inhabitant of District No. 
2, in the Town of Primrose: 
You are hereby requested to notify every legal voter 
of said district to attend a meeting called for the pur- 
pose of changing the school house site, and for voting a 
tax on the taxable property of said district for building a 
school house, and also for fixing a time when said house 


shall be finished or made sufficiently comfortable to 
accommodate a summer school. Meeting to be held at 
the house of William G. Dudley, on Saturday the first 
day of March next, at two o'clock P. M. By reading this 
notice in the hearing of each such voter, or in case of 
his absence from home, by leaving thereat a copy of this 
notice at least six days previous to "the time appointed 
for said meeting. 

Dated at Primrose the day above written. 

Done by request of five legal voters of said district and 

signed by 

William G. Dudley, 

District Clerk. 

The school house was built on the identical spot where 
the present one stands, but for a few years no provision 
was made to secure a deed to the site. By petition a 
special meeting was finally called, whose action we glean 
from the following: 

March the 24th, 1853. 

We, the undersigned legal voters of District No. 2, in 
the town of Primrose, do hereby request the clerk of said 
district to notify a special meeting of said district for the 
purpose of taking measures to obtain a title to the school 
house site agreed upon at a special meeting of said dis- 
trict held March 1st, 1851, and in case a title is not ob- 
tained to agree upon some other site upon which to build 
a school house, and also to take measures to obtain pay 
for building the house on the former site, and also to take 
measures to get the use of the district library. 

School District No. ^, Town of Primrose: 

I have examined the instrument of writing that you 
left with me and I find that a deed to the school house 
site described as you have described it will not be a suf- 
ficient deed, and as you, the subscribers of said instru- 
ment, majority of the district board, took the responsi- 
bility to meet and make out the said description without 


notifying me, you had better finish up the business, as I 

am not willing to write out a deed that will not be a good 


Signed by the minority of the district board. 

April the 4th day, 1853. 

William G. Dudley, 

District Clerk. 


Finally, on April 12, 1853, a deed was given by Joel 
Britts and Salomy Britts to one acre for the small sum of 
one dollar. The residents specified also that this site 
might be used as a public burial ground, but none availed 
themselves of its use. A few who died were buried on a 
knoll just across the creek from the present Konle 

One night in the spring of 1856, this cabin was burned 
to the ground. This, while attributed to a defective 
stove, was doubtless due to incendiarism, as many of the 
residents wanted a new school house biiilt and no agree- 
ment could be reached. The burning of the old neces- 
sitated the building of a new one. On September 29, 
1856, a meeting was held and it was voted to rebuild the 
school house on the same site. It was voted to erect a 
frame building 18x20 feet and 9 feet high, and a tax of 
$250 was levied at once. The present school house was 
the result. . While this building was in the process of con- 
struction (1857) , Miss Mary L. Thomas taught a three 
month's school on the up-stairs floor of the present Konle 

The log school house in District No. 3 was one of the 
first four built, and stood in the ravine just east of the 
present residence of Martin Hobbs. Almira Comstock 
was the first teacher, teaching a three months' term in the 
summer of 1850, the report of which is elsewhere found. 
The schoolhouse being too small a new one was erected 
on the site of the present Town Hall. 

This log school house was replaced in 1858 by the build- 


ing at present known as the Town Hall, which was built 
by Josephus Chandler and others at a cost of $400. Some 
of the lumber used was sawed at the Mt. Vernon Saw Mill. 
The first teacher was George Chandler, the last Lucretia 

The location of the school house not being satisfactory, 
it was voted Oct. 17, 1868, ** That, the school site be moved 
to the southeast corner of K. Johnson's land, sec. 16," and, 
on Nov. 16, 1868, at a special meeting, it was voted to 
raise $400.00 for the building of a new stone school house. 
This school house now known as the " Hanna" School 
House was built the next summer by John Rea and the 
patrons of the district. In the meantime the old School 
house, (the Town Hall), was sold to the town for $300.00. 
Mr. Ole Kolve taught the first term in the new building 
in the fall of 1869. 

On the completion of this building the residents of the 
district realized that they had the best school house in the 
town and they accordingly showed their pride and jealousy 
by voting that the house should be used for no other than 
school purposes, and that non-resident pupils be not ad- 
mitted to it. In the light of this action it is interesting to 
reflect that the building has since been thrown open for 
almost every conceivable use. Much of the most stirring 
part of the town's history has been enacted within its walls, 
for besides serving as an ordinary school house, it has wit- 
nessed religious services, spelling schools, singing schools, 
debates and caucuses, and has been the rendezvous of many 
organizations, among them the Primrose Farmers Club, 
the Anti Horse-thief Association and the Primrose 
Farmer's Cornet Band. 

The first school house in District No. 4, was a log cabin, 

built in 1849, and stood a few rods back of the present 

building known as the Bower's School House. Gunnel 

Jackson was the first teacher, Julia Barron the second. 

This cabin was also used for religious services throughout 


the early years of the town's history by the Methodist and 
Hauge societies, and many of the first Scandinavians to 
die were buried near by. An interesting occurrence was 
the marriage in this building of Rev. P. H. Rasmussen of 
Lisbon, III., and Miss Ragnhild Holland by EUing Eielson, 
in the spring of 1855. The present school house was built 
in 1865. 

The first school in District No. 5, was taught by Miss 
Fairbanks at her father's cabin, which stood a short 
distance below the site of the Lutheran church which was 
destroyed by fire in 1873. The first school house- was built 
in what is now the dooryard of Mr. K. B. Skuldt's resi- 
dence. Miss Margaret Svensrud of Blue Mounds, now 
Mrs. George Paulsen, of Moscow, Wisconsin, was the first 
to teach within it. In 1873, was built the present school 
house. Miss Tilda Malone of Springdale, in later years, 
taught in the above district almost continuously for thir- 
teen years. 

The stone school in District No. 7, was the first in the 
district and the first stone school house in the town. It 
wasbuilt in 1854 by the Norwegians of the southern part of 
the town to be used for school and religious purposes. In 
later years it was popularly known as *'The Brodahl 
Church," and many marriages and baptisms have been 
celebrated within it. 

The last of the early school houses built was the log 
school house in what is now District No. 6. This was 
built in 1863 and did service for twenty-five years. In 1885 
the present school house was built. Eliza Milam was the 
first teacher in the old and Libbie O'Connor the first in 
the new school house. 





The pioneers of Primrose were a devout, God-fearing 
class and leavened their hardships with the consolations 
of religion. It was not long after the settlement that re- 
ligious activity was manifested. The first service was 
held at the house of Robert Spears and was conducted by 
Rae Watcher, a Methodist exhorter, who lived on Green's 
Prairie, Wisconsin. Services were afferward held at the 
houses of the other settlers, Mr. Watcher making regular 
trips, on foot, from his home, stopping overnight with Mr. 
and Mrs. Spears. 

About the time of the building of the new school house, 
1847, a new incentive was given to religion in the person 
of D. W. Edwards, a young revivalist of the Free Will 
Baptist church, who made his appearance in the settle- 
ment. So eloquent was he that on one memorable Sab- 
bath afternoon he led nearly the whole population of the 
town, from the new school house in which the service was 
held, to a pool in the small creek ffowing near by, and Rev. 
J. E. Davis immersed a goodly number, Mr. Edwards 
not being yet ordained. Among those immersed were: 
W. W. Patchin, David Spears, Abigail Spears, Eliphalet 
Thomas, Franklin Thomas, and Mary, Caroline and Ma- 
tilda Thomas. Shortly afterward Elhanon La FoUette 
organized the first singing school in the town, drilling the 
young people in hymn singing, '' and then," one of the 
girls of that day now writes, ** we all seemed to live like 
brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus, for nearly all the 
young people were converted and the elders renewed their 
diligence in serving the Lord." Among other early 


preachers of the day, among the Americans, may be men- 
tioned William G. Dudley, Baptist; Elder Jarius Eaton 
Davis, of Belleville, and David Day, who lived on the 
L. Rue farm, and preached the peculiar doctrines of 
the Campbellites. 

Outside of the Norwegians, there have been no regular 
church organizations in Primrose. 

In 1850 Elling Eielson appeared among the Norwegian 
settlers of Primrose and preached his first sermon to them 
at the home of Nils Olson. A congregation was soon 
organized, the first in the town, known as the Primrose 
Norse Evangelical Lutheran Congregation, with Eielson 
as its pastor. Among the first members of this congre- 
gation were Gunof Tollefson, Ole ToUefson, Halvor 
Erickson, Anon Gjorgenson, Torje Matson, Salve Jorg- 
enson, Ole Danielson, Nils Olson, Thomas Pederson, 
Knud Bowerson. The organization joined the Norse 
Evangelical Lutheran Church of North America. Serv- 
ices were held in private houses, confirmations celebrated 
in the woods with logs rolled up for seats. In 1856 the 
first church in the towp was built by this congregation on 
section 21. Five hundred dollars were subscribed for the 
erection of this little structure, the members minimizing 
expenses by turning out and hewing all the heavy timbers 
from the woods near by. Ole Netland and Thomas New- 
ton were the architects. 

Immediately on its completion this church was honored 
by having the annual convention (Aarsmodet) of the 
church assembled within its walls, June 1, 1856. Dele- 
gates came from all surrounding states, boarding with the 
members of the congregation. The church being utterly 
too small to hold the great crowd that gathered, the 
business and discussions were carried on in the shade of 
the grove. This was a momentous meeting to the 
Lutheran church of the United States, and changed the 
course of its whole subsequent growth. Previous to this 


meeting, Eielson and the Rev. P. A. Rasmussen, of Lis- 
bon, 111., had become involved in bitter disputes about 
doctrinal points and religious practices. All eyes turned 
anxiously to this meeting in the hope that reconciliation 
would follow. Such, however, was not to be the case. 
Violent discussions followed on predestination and other 
points and resulted in Rev. Mr. Rasmussen leading off 
one party, producing a schism never fully healed. 

Elling Eielson was succeeded as pastor by Rev. Arne 
Boyum. Then for a short time Rev. L. Johnson and M. 
Samson served. In 1864, Rev. Ole E. Torgerson took 
charge, followed by Rev. P. O. Solberg, in 1866. In 1882, 
K. Hagaseth, the present pastor, was called. 

In 1894 this first Primrose church, in which so many of 
the earliest marriages and baptisms in the town's history 
had been celebrated, was torn down and a new commodi- 
ous building was erected by Kleven Bros., a few rods 
south, at a total cost of $2,500. 

The life of Elling Eielson, the first pastor of the church, 
reads like a romance and a short sketch will surely be of 

Elling Eielson was born in Vos Ber- 
gen Stift, Norway, September 19, 1804. 
His father was a school teacher. At the 
time of Elling s birth, the spirit of the 
French rationalism of Voltaire and 
Rousseau had swept over Norway, 
P!^ comingby way of Germany and through 
Copenhagen, at which latter place all 
Elling Eielson. the thclogical studeuts of Norway were 
then educated. Religion had died away to such an extent 
in Norway that we read that Christmas day would be 
given up to discussions from the pulpit of such material 
questions as the proper methods of agriculture. When 
Hans Nielson Hauge came forward with his wonder- 
ful zeal and eloquence to win the people back to 


the true religious spirit, the father of our subject 
was one of the first to welcome the revival. He in- 
stilled the principles of piety in his little son and 
the lessons were not lost. Young Elling early determined 
to be a preacher, and, taking up the work of Hauge, he 
wandered over Norway, Sweden and Denmark, as an 
evangelist. In 1839 he came to America, and the next 
year preached his first sermon in this country in the then 
little frontier town of Chicago, the services being held in 
a little log house owned by an Englishwoman. In the 
autum of 1842, he went to New York City to obtain a sup- 
ply of books for the scattered Norwegian settlements of 
Wisconsin, and came back on foot and alone in the midst 
of the winter, suffering almost unparalled privations. He 
reached Milwaukee on New Yearns day, 1843. On July 3. 
of the same year he was married to Miss Sigri Nielson, a 
daughter of Hermond Nielson of North Cape, and on Oct. 
3, was ordained clergyman for America at Duncan's Grove, 
Illinois, twenty miles north of Chicago. Here he built a 
small house, the attic of which served as his chapel. In 
1844, the first Norwegian Lutheran church in America, a 
small log structure, was built in Pleasant Springs, Dane 
county, and here Eielson occasionally preached. Eielson's 
strength lay in his powers as an evangelist and as such he 
regularly visited the Norwegian settlements of Wisconsin 
and neighboring states. While on these expeditions he 
carried an axe, a rubber coat, a coffee kettle and a com- 
pass and camped out wherever night overtook him. He 
became a friend of the Indians, and, while wandering 
through Missouri, he conceived the idea of living with 
them, that he might learn their language and serve as an 
evangelist among them. Robust though he was, he could 
not, however, endure what the Indians could and he was 
forced to give up the undertaking. Eielson did not con- 
fine himself very closely to established orthodoxy and 
hence became involved in much trouble with Rev. J. W. 


Dietrichson, of Koshkonong, who traveled about doing 
over the ceremonies of baptism, confirmation and mar- 
riage that Eielson had performed. 

In 1865-6 the pioneers of Primrose built their first 
church and Eielson became its pastor. In 1859 he made a 
journey to Texas and labored hard to eradicate the French 
philosophy of infidelity that had taken root among the 
Norwegians settled there. Two years later he resolved to 
visit his native land again, but the enmity he had aroused 
gave him no rest, for he was followed even there by the 
Revs. Dietrichson and Stub, who stumped Norway and 
endeavored to undo his good work. He remained abroad 
nearly two years. In 1873 he made Chicago his home, 
his previous home being at Jefferson Prairie, near Clinton, 
Wis. In 1881 he made a visit to Primrose, and while 
there he fell dangerously sick. He died at Chicago Jan. 
10, 1883, and his remains were laid at rest in Graceland 
cemetery. Eielson was an extensive land owner in Prim- 
rose, owning the present M. P. Myrland farm and Mrs. 
A. Langelie*s, in section 28, and that of Jacob Volkevar in 
section 30. 

The second or third religious organization in Primrose 
was effected in 1854, by Rev. Adolph C. Preus, whom his 
enemies ungenerously loved to dub**AlleChristen's Plage.*' 
A large stone school house, later called the " Brodahl 
Church," was built in this year, that religious services 
might be carried on within it. A burial ground was also 
established near by. Over twenty famlies united, the or- 
ganization joining the Norse Lutheran Synod. Mr. Preus 
was succeded by P. M. Brodahl. 

During this time, however, that part of the church that 
had seceded with Rasmussen in 1856, had remained out- 
side of either organization. Mr. Rasmussen was retained 
as minister and services were held chiefly in the school 
houses of Districts No. 5 and 7. An amusing feature of 
the time was the frequent holding of services by Rev. 


Messrs. Rasmussen and Brodahl on the same Sabbath at 
the stone school house of District No. 7, one party waiting 
outside until the other had left. Mr. Rasmussen was suc- 
ceeded by John Fjeld. In 1864, these congregations united, 
Mr. Brodahl retiring and Mr. Fjeld assuming charge of 

In 1866 a church was built on section 28 at a cost of over 
$2,000. One night in the autumn of 1873, this church was 
burned to the ground. The next year another was built 
eighty rods east at about the same cost, A Longelie being 
the architect. The windows used in this church were do- 
nated by the Lisbon, 111., congregation, having served in 
the first church built there. 

In 1868, however, the church became again divided, 
this time on the slavery question. A secession followed 
in Primrose and resulted in the formation of the Primrose 
Lutheran Conference Congregation; this was organized 
the next year by Rev. C. L.Clausen; among the families 
joining being those of T. Thorstensen, Anon Gullickson, 
B. O. Skuldt, H. O. Skuldt and Mons Ness. Services 
were held in private houses and school houses, chiefly in 
the school house of District No. 5 until January 1, 1891, 
when the congregation again joined the Synod from which 
it had seceded. Rev. Mr. Clausen was succeeded by Prof. 
A. Wenaas, he by Rev. M. F. Gjertsen; who served for 
many years. Revs. F. Dahl, P. Reimestad and O. Paul- 
sen were the last pastors. Rev. Mr. Fjeld retired from 
service in 1883, and was followed by O. Isberg who served 
until 1888. Rev. H. Voldal, the present pastor, took 
charge in 1889. 

The earliest religious instructers for the young, among 
the Norwegians were Ole Stoutland and Peter Havreberg. 


The Primrose Norse Methodist church is of unusual 
interest from the fact that its organizers and early minis- 



ters were the pioneer organizers of the Norse-Danish 
Methodist church in North America, and men who have 
risen to the highest distinction in their church. It was 
organized by Rev. Chr. B. Willerup, a Dane, the second 
Scandinavian Methodist minister in America, who three 
years earlier had organized the first Scandinavian Meth- 
odist church in America, at Cambridge, Wis. Rev. L. 
Peterson assisted in the organization and was made the 
first pastor. The congregation was small and services 
were held in private houses and the school house of dis- 
trict No. 4. The church was included in the Cambridge 

In 1858. Rev. A. Haagensen, now of Chicago, took charge. 
Rev. Mr. Haagensen was the first local Norse Methodist 
preacher in America, and a celebrated organizer. J. H. 
Johnson succeeded him in 1862. but almost immediately 
joined the Fifteenth Wisconsin, as chaplain. C. P. Agre- 
lius. who took charge in 1863, was another remarkable 
man. He was a Swedish minister of the Lutheran church 
but became converted to Methodism and traveled about 
the west preaching to the Scandinavians his new doctrines. 
He preached at Cambridge before Willerup made his ap- 
pearance, being thus the first of his church in the west. 
When the first Norse-Danish Methodist church was built 
at St. Paul, in 1854, Agrelius was made its pastor. He 
remained in Primrose four years, living on the present 
Hoffman farm. In 1867, P. Jensen took charge, and in 
this year a small log church was erected on section 26 at 
a cost of $100. The building still stands. Later minis- 
ters were Revs. C. F. Eltzholtz, R. Olsen and O. J. San- 
acker. No regular service has been held during the last 
dozen years, as most of the families of the congregation 
have moved westward, that of S. EUefs being the only one 

This Methodist congregation established a burying 
ground behind the old log school house of District No. 4, 


and many of the earliest Norwegians to die are buried 
there, among them Colburn Colby and Mrs. Christian 
Hendrickson, who died of cholera in 1854. Here also is 
buried Rev. Samuel Anderson, a' man celebrated in the 
history of the Norse-Danish Methodist church, who died 
in Primrose in 1860. Rev. Mr. Anderson organized a 
Methodist church at Racine, Wis., in 1853, and in 1854 
built the first Norse-Methodist church in St. Paul, having 
gathered the funds in the east. In this cemetery also 
sleeps pioneer K. Moland. 






Scarce a week had elapsed after Sumpter's flag was fired 
upon before Primrose boys were to the front in response 
to President Lincoln's first call for troops. 

The first man to enlist from Primrose for the suppres- 
sion of the rebellion was James H. Smith, who entered 
the Second Wisconsin Infantry, April 24, 1861. Two days 
later Lawrence Post, of Perry, then a farm hand employed 
by Hall C. Chandler, joined the Third Wisconsin, and 
Charles Crown the Fifth. One of the first to volunteer 
was William E. Moon, listed as *'The Wandering Man." 
Mr. Moon had just opened the school in District No. 1 
when President Lincoln issued his first call for volunteers. 
He made an inspiring speech to his pupils, firing them 
with patriotic fervor and informing them of his purpose 
to enlist. It was a pathetic leave taking. Mr. Moon also 
remained in correspondence with his pupils until he was 
killed, and the news of his death affected them greatly. 

Many war meetings were held at the present Town Hall 
and other places, and enlistment went on rapidly. Among 
the speakers who regularly appeared at these meetings to 
rouse the people were Gen. George E. Bryant, Hon. John 
A. Johnson and Hon. Willet S. Main, of Madison, and 
Hon* Russel Crocker of Montrose. The flag, the fife and 
drum were conspicuous at these meetings, and a woman of 
the time says: "We women and children also turned out 
and there were many pathetic incidents. Often in one 
corner of the room would be found a group making merry 
and singing patriotic songs, while in another corner would 


sit some family who had lost some one dear to them, 
weeping, and reproaching the others for their light-heart - 

Some of the troops enlisted under local officers at the 
Hauge church. During the early fall of 1862, eleven men 
of Company K, Twenty-eighth Wisconsin, with other re- 
cruits from Perry and York, spent three weeks in hard 
drilling on W. C. B. Weltzin's meadow, before going to 
the front, boarding with Mr. Weltzin and sleeping in a barn. 
Mr. Syver Holland acted as drill-master. The Primrose 
recruits were N. N. Byrge; K. Aslakson; Thomas Chant- 
land; T. O. Gordon; Erick Colby; Anuh Hansen; William 
Jacobson; Sjur Knutson; S. Oleson; H. S. Holland; N. O. 

In the gallant Fifteenth Wisconsin, Primrose was espe- 
cially well represented. 

A celebrated bounty jumper who gave the United States 
officers much trouble was Robert D. Ranson; time and 
time again did he evade them but he was finally taken to 
the South and sentenced to death, but escaped the last 
moment on a technicality in spelling his name. 

Toward the close of the war as the demand for troops 
increased, numerous special town meetings were held to 
raise bounty money, that the town's quota might be filled. 
Much money was raised by private subscription. The 
total amount paid by the town was $12,837.61. The first 
of these special meetings, as recorded, was held January 
25, 1864, and $2000 were voted, the town supervisors being 
instructed to obtain volunteers as cheap as possible, and 
to turn the balance into the town treasury. Of the ninety 
votes cast, seventy were for such a measure, and twenty 
against, "it being noticeable'* says one *'that those in no 
danger of being drafted, such as the old or crippled almost 
invariably opposed the raising of bounty money at these 
meetings.'* March 16, 1864, the second meeting was held 
at the Town Hall and $1,200 payable in town orders at 


seven per cent interest were voted. March 30, 1864. $1,200 
more was voted and a resolution passed: "That if the 
town could not hire volunteers, $250 should be paid to 
every man drafted who owned real estate, and those not 
owning real estate were to pay $15, into the town treasury 
within eight days in order to get the $250.*' 

Other meetings held with the amounts subscribed were: 
Aug. 16, 1864, $2,000; Aug. 26, 1864, $3,000; Jan. 14, 1865, 
$1000; Feb. 25, 1865, *'$200 for each volunteer or drafted 
man and $400 for each man that has enlisted heretofore." 

In consequence of these acts the town supervisors were 
kept in Madison the greater part of the last years of the 
war, obtaining troops. One of them says reminiscently: 

** Men would hang around the street corners and sell 
themselves to the highest bidder. And they were in big 
demand. The first questions asked a new man on enter- 
ing the city were: * Are you sold yet?* * What'll you 
take?' One morning thirteen men came up from Spring 
Green and I determined to secure the whole baker's 
dozen. They had been offered $300 apiece before coming 
up but I made an offer of $325 apiece to them. After 
debating some time the leader announced that they would 
go in together at my offer. I could not obtain the money, 
however, until the banks opened at 9 o'clock, still two 
hours, and I had to do a good deal of bluffing to keep 
other seekers from tempting them. 

** At one time our whole town board was drafted and we 
were in a stew. We felt, however, that we could serve 
our country better at home, at least our skins would be 
safer, and we looked about for substitutes. Fortunately 
we got them right in Primrose. But some mischief maker 
whispered in their ears that substitutes were always 
placed in the most dangerous positions in battle and 
those of my colleagues backed out. I started off in high 
glee with mine, but on arriving at Janesville, the muster- 
ing place, he was put on the scales and, alas! was too light. 


I hurried back to Madison and influential friends sought 
to help me out on the only possible plea, — poor health. I 
was at the time a most robust specimen of physical man- 
hood and the case seemed hopeless. Returning to Janes- 
ville, I was stripped and put through a round of acrobatic 
performances, such as running round the room, jumping 
over drygoods boxes, etc. My heart was pounding tre- 
mendously, not from the exercise but from fear of having 
to enlist when the physician put his ear to my breast. He 
shook his head at once though and said, * No, that man 
won't do. His heart is to weak,* which was indeed too 

**On coming out, my colleague saw my happy face and 
surmised the outcome. ' How much did you pay them?' 
he asked desperately, driving his hand into his pocket. 
* Not a cent ' I proudly answered. He was taken in and ex- 
amined but the examination was against him. He 
was told he would have to go. He had sprained 
his ankle a few days before and now cried indig- 
nantly: 'What! a lame man like me? why I can't walk!' 
*0 that '11 be all right ' the mustering officer replied, 
smiling dryly, * you wont have to walk, we'll put you in 
the artillery service to guard forts, where all you have to 
do is to shoot and get shot. I guess you'll do for that.' 

** He managed to obtain a substitute however and es- 
caped service." 

A complete roster of Primrose troops as gathered from 
the records hereby follows: 


James H. Smith, April 24, 1861; July 14, 1865; sergt. major 

Co. G, Sixth Regulars, Jan. 1, 1865. 
Henry A. Smith, May 23, 1861; June 14, 1864. 
William E. Moon, "The Wandering Man," May 23, 1861; 

killed at Gainesville, Va., Aug. 28, 1862. 


Allen Wales, Feb. 27, 1864. 



Lawrence Post, April 26, 1861; July 14, 1864; captured at 

Cedar Mountain. 
Asle O. Hanum, May 2, 1861; Dec. 2, 1862. 


Charles Crown, April 26, 1861; July 14. 1864. 

Geo. B. Thomas, June 26, 1861; killed at Fredericksburg, 
Va., May 3, 1863. 

Geo. W. Chandler, July 20, 1861; Feb. 15, 1864. 

Andrew C. Baerstad, June 28, 1861; killed at Fredericks- 
burg, May 3, 1863. 


Harry Ash, Aug. 31, 1861; Sept. 16, 1864. 
John Bell, Aug. 31, 1861; Sept. 5, 1865. 


Nils Olson, Sept. 21, 1861; died, Keokuk, la., Aug. 4, 1862. 
Laurene Randall, Aug. 5, 1864; died Sept. 1, 1865. 


Otto Wiesender, Feb. 17, 1865; Jan. 30, 1866. 


Knud Johnson. 


John Peters, Nov. 11, 1861; Dec. 20, 1864; sergt. and 2nd 

lieut., Nov. 11, 1863. 
Gunder Gunderson, Nov. 12, 1861; Dec. 20, 1864; sergt. 
Andrew Johnson, corp., Nov. 6, 1861; wounded at Stone 

River; died at New Albany, Indiana, Mar. 18, 1863. 
Peter Johnson, Dec. 20, 1861; Dec. 20, 1864; wounded at 

New Hope Church, Dec. 2, 1864. 
Peter W. Chantland, 2nd lieut., Dec. 8, 1861; Nov. 18, 

1863; sergt. April 9, 1863. 
Torbjorn Erikson, Nov. 26, 1861; died Nov. 15, 1862 at 

Edgefield, Tenn. 


John M. Johnson, Nov. 1, 1861; Dec. 20, 1864. 
Christ Erikson. 

Job Tjerans, Nov. 1, 1861; died at Murfreesboro, May 
15, 1863. 


Ole Colby, Jan. 3, 1862; Jan. 13, 1865. 

Elias Christopherson, Nov. 26, 1861; Jan. 13, 1865; wounded 

at Atlanta. 
Henry O. Hendrikson, Nov. 11, 1861; Jan. 13, 1865; corp. 
Ole O. Nelson. 

John H. Johnson, Nov. 4, 1861; Jan. 13, 1865; corp. 
Nils K. Luraas, Nov. 20, 1861; Jan. 13, 1865. 
Nils Erickson, Feb. 26, 1864. 


Gunner Severson, Dec. 2, 1861; Dec. 16, 1862. 
Ingebret Johnson, Dec. 17, 1861; died at Nashville, Tenn., 
Dec. 23, 1862. 


Newton K. Andrew, Jan. 15. 1862; Feb. 10, 1865; corp. 

Tollef Olson, Dec. 16, 1861; June 24, 1862. 

Henry Brown, Feb. 17, 1864; recruit. 

Knud K. Landgra. 

Thomas Toleson. 

Ingebret O. Bolstad, Oct. 22, 1861; Feb. 10, 1865. 

Robert Watson, Feb. 18, 1864. 

John H. Johnson, chaplain, Oct. 19, 1864. 


Edwin R. Cook, Feb. 16, 1864; July 24, 1865. 
Wm. W. Bunker, Feb. 24, 1864; died at Keokuk, la. Sept. 
30, 1864. 


Ira Holden. Feb. 5, 1862; April 9, 1862. 


John Nelson, Aug. 15, 1862; Aug. 29, 1865. 



Knut Aslakson, Aug. 14, 1862; died April 5, 1863 at Green- 
wood, Miss. 

Sunder Steverson, Aug. 21, 1862; died Dane County, June 
26, 1863. 

Nils O. Sjurson, Aug. 18, 1862; Aug. 23, 1865. 

Sam Oleson. 

T. C. Chandler. 

John Williamson, Aug. 14. 1862; May 28, 1863. 

Knud Oscarson. 

ToUot O. Gordon, Aug. 14, 1862; died at Helena, Ark., Feb. 
15, 1863. 

Ole Nelson. 

N. N. Byrge, Aug. 21, 1862; Aug. 23, 1865. 

Erick Colby, Aug. 21, 1862; Aug. 23. 1865. 

Thomas Chantland, Aug. 15, 1862; Aug. 23, 1865; corp. 

William Jacobson, Aug. 21, 1862; Aug. 19, 1865. 

Anun Hansen, Aug. 21, 1862; June 10, 1865; corp. 

Haldor S. Holland, Aug. 14, 1862; May 22, 1865; sergt. 

Samuel Olsen, Aug. 21, 1862; Aug. 23, 1865. 


Ed. S. Ketchum, Aug. 21, 1862; Wgm, 1865; corp. 

Columbus Hatch, Aug. 19, 1862; Aug. 9, 1865. 

Peter Bell, Aug. 14, 1862; Aug. 9, 1865. 

Lewis Jain, Aug. 14, 1862; Aug. 9, 1865; wounded, Comar- 

go. Miss. 
John B. Jain, Aug, 20, 1862; Aug. 9, 1865. 
John F. Cross, Aug. 15, 1862; Aug. 9, 1865; sergt. 
Robert. D. Ransom, Aug. 21, 1862; deserted, Oct. 25, 1862. 


John J. Argue, March 30, 1864; July 10, 1865. 

Thomas W. Argue, March 31. 1864; died, June 25, 1864; 




Geo. Jackson, capt., Sept. 16, 1864; June 24, 1865. 

Ole N. Bjorge, Sept. 3, 1864; died at Jeffersonville, Ind., 

Nov. 22, 1864. 
Andrew N. Brones, Sept. 6, 1864; June 24, 1865. 
Peter N. Brones, Sept. 7, 1864; June 24. 1865. 
Andrew Charleson, Sept. 2, 1864; June 24, 1865, corp. 
Martin Nelson, Sept. 3, 1864; June 24, 1865. 
Sever Olsen, Aug. 27, 1864; June 24, 1865. 
Osmund Osmundsen, Aug. 25, 1864; June 24, 1865. 
Knud Sorenson, Aug. 25, 1864; June 24, 1865. 
Knud ToUef, Aug. 31, 1864: June 24, 1865. 


Annun A. Jorgen, Jan. 24, 1865; July 17, 1865. 


John Paulson, Feb. 14, 1865; Oct. 14, 1865. 
Christian Syverson, Feb. 14, 1865; Sept. 27, 1865. 
John Charleson, Feb. 14, 1865; Sept. 27, 1865. 
Anun O. Danielson, Feb. 14, 1865; Sept. 27, 1865. 
Andrew E. Lewis, Feb. 14, 1865; Sept. 27, 1865. 


G. H. Ames, Jan. 30, 1865; Sept. 4, 1865. 
Ansel O. Ash, Jan. 30, 1865; May 27, 1865. 
William L. Hollar. Jan. 24, 1865; July 14, 1865; musician. 
George P. Ketchum, Jan. 24, 1865; died, Feb. 22, 1865, at 
Madison, Wis. 


George R. Baxter, Feb. 28, 1865; deserted, March 2, 1865. 




1851. — In this year by act of th6 legislature, Messrs. 
Sylvester Wheeler, Matthew Hause, Joel Britts, John L. 
Sarten and Jonas Loveless were appointed commissioners 
** to lay out and establish a state road beginning at the 
junction of the Madison and Verona state road in the 
county of Dane, thence southwest on the present road, 
or as near as practicable to Wjota in the county of La 

1854. — In the summer of this year Colburn Colby, who 
had brought a load of emigrants from Milwaukee to Rock 
Prairie, was seized with the Asiatic cholera and died. Chi 
August 2, of the same year, Mrs. Christian Hendrickson 
was carried away by the same disease. 

1856. — In the winter of 1856 a celebrated bear hunt was 
enjoyed by the citizens of Primrose and Springdale. 
Early in the winter Mr. Nash, who lived on the present 
Dahl farm in Springdale, noticed the tracks of a bear on 
the snow in his cornfield. Thomas Bently, living on the 
present Fargo farm, was the Daniel Boone of the day and 
he gathered a force to hunt the animal down. Mr. Axium 
Malone was the first to discover it. In riding next day 
past the "Dahr* cave, in which the bear had made his den, 
he suddenly came upon the beast in a thicket. His horse 
made a start and stumbled over a stump, Mr. Malone 
breaking three ribs and being otherwise injured by the 
fall. While Mr. Malone was conveyed home the bear es- 
caped his pursuers and fled into the town ot Primrose, 
passing southward somewhere between the Webber spring 
and Mr. Britts' house. The next day nearly seventy men 


and boys were hot on its trail, on horseback and foot, ac- 
companied by many dogs. It was finally treed in a black 
oak in N. N. Byrge*s pasture and " Jim'* Dudley and Ed. 
Britts came up and shot it. The animal was a black one 
weighing four hundred pounds. The farmers stripped off 
the skin and dividing up the flesh went home to enjoy the 
steak. The stump of the tree in which the bear took ref- 
uge is still to be seen on Mr. Byrge's farm. 

In this year a small store was opened by Sevilian Phillips 
on the site of the present Rock Hill Cheese Factory. The 
building was a small poplar log structure with a four foot 
counter, and was utilized as a store but a short time. Josiah 
La FoUette built the first frame house in Primrose in this 

1857. — In 1857, the first serious instance of corruption 
in the town government was discovered. In balancing 
the books of the retiring treasurer, Joseph H. Bell, it was 
fdund that the expenditures of the town for the year 1856 
had been $1,387.12, and the receipts $1,479.57, leaving a 
balance of $92.45, of which no account was given. Suit 
was immediately brought by the supervisors of the town 
against the ex-treasurer and his sureties, Peter Bell and 
Norman Randall. The case was first called before Justice 
William Sweet, of Springdale, J. P. Mc Pherson, of Spring- 
dale, appearing as attorney for the town supervisors. 
From here the case was carried before Judge Luther S. 
Dixon, of the circuit court of Dane county, Hon. S. U. 
Pinney appearing as attorney for the defendants and J. H. 
Carpenter and J. P. Mc Pherson for the plaintiffs. A flaw 
having been discovered, the suit was withdrawn, March 23, 
1859, and the costs of about $100.00, were assessed to the 

1858. — The last town meeting in the school house of 
District No. 1, was held April 6, 1858. Ten dollars was 
voted for guide boards, at this meeting. It was then 
voted to hold the next election **in the new meeting 


house," the Hauge church. This occurred November 2, 
1858, and the next town meeting was held in the ** Chan- 
dler" school house, the present town hall, which had been 
built the previous year. 

In the summer of this year was built the Britts' Mill 
(section 8), by Ed. Britts and Charles Smith. It was 
built of stone, provided with ponderous wooden 
wheels, and was a popular resort in its day. In 
the early eiffhties the wooden wheels were replaced with 
a turbine water wheel and improved machinery by C. W. 
Karn. One night in September, 1887, while in possession 
of Nick. Hentgen, the mill was burnt to the ground, 
doubtless by incendiarism. The walls still stand but no 
attempt has been made to rebuild it. 

1859. — In this year occurred the mobbing of the Byam 
brothers of Mt. Vernon, by the farmers of Primrose, who 
now rallied for the last time in response to the old " Club 
Law." Dr. Philander Byam and his two brothers had by 
means of selling patent rights on churns and buggy 
springs, succeeded in defrauding many of the surrounding 
farmers of their lands. Public feeling against them ran 
so high that at last on the night of October 24, 1859, a 
band of about seventy of the farmers of Primrose rallied 
and choosing R. B. Chandler leader, marched to the village 
of Mt. Vernon, determined to teach the offenders a lesson. 
The house of Dr. Byam stood south of the mill just inside 
the Primrose line, and the family had retired when the 
farmers arrived. They began calling for the doctor, who 
sent his wife out to say that he was not at home. The 
farmers, however, knew that he was and not to be ''bluffed," 
they immediately began tearing down the house with axes 
and crowbars. Dr. Byam then opened an upstairs window 
and with an oath yelled out: "If it weren't for the infant 
in the cradle here, a half-dozen of you would be lying 
dead out there." " Mr. Byam will you please come down 
and go with us over to the mill?'* asked Mr. Chandler, 


"we're going to hold a meeting there." This he at first 
refused to do, but on the pledge that no harm would be 
done him, finally yielded. At the mill a sort of a trial was 
held, and several speeches were made. He was of course 
found guilty of many misdemeanors and " Col." Kelly, of 
Mt. Vernon, in concluding the speech-making finished 
thus: " Now, Mr. Byam, and that means every Byam in 
Mt. Vernon, one of two things you can do, — leave Mt. Ver- 
non, every soul of you, inside of twenty-four hours, or 
stay and be hanged." One of the brothers, who lived with 
an old crony in a cabin near the " Big Rock," was given a 
coating of tar and feathers. The next morning they 
hired teams and moved at once to Madison. One of them 
had the temerity to return for a load of hay on the Bell 
farm, (John Tascher's), but when he had reached the top 
of the " Mill" hill with it, someone slipped up behind and 
wantonly set fire to it, causing the team to run away and 
furnishing an exciting spectacle for the village. A suit 
for $10,000 danrages, was immediately brought in the cir- 
cuit court against R. B. Chandler, Hall C. Chandler, J. T. 
Chandler, H. M. LaFollette, William LaFollette, Joseph 
A. Bell, Peter Bell, Joseph A. Britts, William W. Miner, 
David Ash, George H. Orr, Dean H. Eastman and Elipha- 
let Thomas. J. C. Hopkins appeared as attorney for the 
plaintiffs, and Johnson, Rollins, Smith, Keyes and Gay for 
the defendants. Over fifty witnesses were subpoenaed, 
practically all the residents in the vicinity, and on April 
19, 1860, a judgment of $330.00, was given the plaintiffs, the 
costs amounting to $78.26. Messrs. Dean Eastman and 
Eliphalet Thomas, were exempted by the jury from any 
part of the judgment. As other suits were threatened, Mr. 
Harvey M. La FoUette, to avoid losing all his property 
sold his farm and moved back to Indiana, but with gener- 
ous loyalty to his friends sent back his share of the assess- 
ments on the suits following. Further suits were insti- 
tuted by the Byams in the federal court at Madison, but 
these resulted in a victory for the farmers. 


1860. — At the- national election, the Lincoln electors 
received one hundred and twenty votes, the Douglas elec- 
tors twenty-one. 

1864.— The Lincoln electors received one hundred and 
fifteen votes, Mc Clellan, twenty. 

1868. — Grant electors received one hundred and forty- 
nine votes, Seymour, thirty-two. G. Tollefson elected 
member of Assembly. 

1871. — In June 1871, a dozen property holders of the 
town petitioned for a special town meeting, to vote on the 
question of granting aid to the Sugar River Railroad, a 
project then under consideration. The railroad was to 
run within one-half mile of Paoli and Belleville in the 
town of Montrose, with a station at each place. The 
meeting was held July 1, and resulted in two votes for the 
railroad, and eighty-seven against. 

1872. — W. C. B. Weltzin elected clerk of Dane county. 

1879. — Mrs. Anna Hanna opened a store on Section 16, 
in this year, which was maintained for a number of 

1881.— March 13, 1881, Mr. Christian Hendrickson, the 
first Scandinavian settler in Primrose, commited suicide 
by hanging in his barn. The news was a great shock to 
the community as Mr. Hendrickson was a well to do and 
highly respected citizen. For the grateful services which 
he often rendered his countrymen who followed him, he 
deserves high praise. Further notices of him in this vol- 
ume reveals the high trust in which he was held. 

1882. — The Peerless Cheese Factory built. 

1884.— Standard, **Domholt" and Rock Hill cheese fac- 
tories built. 

1888.— "Colby" Cheese Factory built. 

1893. — On Sept. 5, 1893, an old settlers' picnic was held 
at Primrose church. A large crowd was present, many 
from adjoining towns. Among the speakers of the day 
were Messrs. John A. Johnson, of Madison; Lawrence 


Post, of Perry; Hollis Crocker, of Montrose; Gunof Tol- 
lefson.of Primrose; Rev.O. Paulson, of t'a Fayette county; 
P. O. Stromme, of Mt. Horeb; and Rev. H. Voldal. Mrs. 
Turner, of Belleville, one of the first white women in 
Dane county, was an interesting visitor. 

1894.^ Primrose Norse Evangelical Lutheran Church 






The first organization in Primrose of any importance, 
with the exception of the church organizations, was the 
Primrose Farmers' Club, an outgrowth of the popular 
Granger movement of the early seventies. The club was 
organized at the school house in District No. 1, May 10, 
1873. The object of the organization was for mutual im- 
provement in the discussion of agricultural methods and 
for advantageous co-operation in the purchase of goods. 
The first officers of the club were: Ole Barton, president; 
O. G. Stamn and Charles Crown, vice-presidents; N. N. 
Byrge, secretary; P. O. Baker, treasurer. Five directors, 
O. G. Stamn, Ole Barton, Eli Pederson, P. O. Baker and 
T. Thorstenson, were also elected. The club consisted of 
about one hundred members, and regular meetings were 
held at various places until 1877. The most important re- 
sult of the organization was the formation by its members 
of the Primrose Fire Insurance Company, April 25, 1874, 
for mutual protection against losses by fire. This was the 
pioneer company of its kind in its locality. The original 
subscribers of this company were: Ole Barton, N. Swa- 
ger, A. S. Holland, Eli Peterson. O. K. Nessa, J. G. Hanna, 
Lars. L. Kolve, P. O. Baker, George Thompson, Thomas 
Zimmerman, Syver Neseim, Hans Anderson, O. G. Stamn, 
G. Gullickson, L. L. Skaar, A. Anderson, O. P. Myrland, 
P, E. Call, G. O. Stamn, P. Lensworth, T. Thorstenson, 
S. A. Wallen, K. O. Gordon, O. E. Stamn, L. M. Olson, J. 
Anderson, O. Slaaten, C. Hendrickson. 

A capital stock of $25,000, was subscribed. 


The company has been very fortunate, having suffered 
but four serious losses since its organization, $500, for the 
burning of Andrew Anderson's house; $600, for the burn- 
ing of Eli Pederson's granary in 1891, and $800, for the 
burning of Ole Hustad's house in 1893. On November 28, 
1894, Bower Bowerson's house was destroyed, making 
the fourth loss. 


The formation of this company was important as it took 
the first step in the building of cheese factories in the 
town. The company was organized Feb. 6, 1878, and a 
factor]^ for the manufacture of limburger cheese was 
built near Mr. Tascher's home. The following were the 
original members of the association: John Tascher, M. 
Schlimgen, M. F. Van Norman, M. C. Webber, Ole Bar- 
ton, D. H. Eastman, H. Johnson and C. J. Weltzin. 


This association was organized January 24, 1891, for the 
protection of its members against horse-thieves, who had 
alarmed and irritated the people of the town for a few 
years. Several meetings were held and twenty-one arti- 
cles of protection were drawn up and signed. The active 
members of the association consist of a president, two 
vice-presidents, a secretary and a treasurer. Ten riders 
are elected to assist the proper authorities in case of theft. 
No horse stealing, however, has been committed since the 
association was formed. The following were the original 
members: C. Danielson, (president), N. N. Byrge, O. G. 
Stamn, H. H.Anderson, G. G. Stamn, John Wallen, H.O. 


This band was organized August 8. 1890, with the follow- 
ing members: O. E. Stamn, J. H. Domholt, O. O. Holman, 


C. O. Weltzin, S. H. Skuldt, H. N. Byrge, O. Anderson, 
O. L. Kleppe, O. E. Slaaten, O. G. Lee, G. G. Stamn, O. 
J. Slaaten, M. O. Slaaten, G. W. Weltzin, 


The worst crime that ever stained the soil of Primrose 
was the murder of Cheesemaker William Christen, by 
John Kuehni, in December, 1888. In its sickening and 
cold-blooded brutality this crime remains almost un- 
paralled. It was committed on the night of December 12, 
1888, at the Holland Cheese Factory in the north-east cor- 
ner of Section 16, where Christen, an inoffensive bachelor 
of thirty, was employed as cheesemaker. John Kuehni, 
the murderer, was a young desperado of twenty-five who 
had been but fourteen months in this country, coming from 
Switzerland, in which country he had previously been im- 
prisoned for petty crimes. Christen was murdered for 
his money, he having in his posession at the time between 
three and four hundred dollars of wages for his summer's 
work. It was Kuehni's plan to secure this money, return 
to Switzerland and spend the remainder of his life among 
his native mountains. The story of the discovery of the 
crime, its revolting nature, and the miscarriage of Kuehni's 
plans are essentially as follows: 

On the afternoon of December 21, 1888, the brothers 
George and William Rea, of Mt. Vernon, were fishing in 
the little brook that flows just below the Holland Cheese 
Factory. About ninety rods east of the factory, in a pool 
of the bright clear water, they discovered an old grain 
sack weighted to the bottom with something inside. 
** Looks like there might be a jug in it," said one, ** let's 
pull it out." They pulled it out with a fish pole, cut it 
open, and shook out a stone, a pair of wooden shoes, a 
liver and intestines, and to their horror and amazement, — a 
human head. N. N. Byrge was sent for and identified the 
head at once as that of William Christen. Sheriff Estes 


was immediately informed and the next morning Justice 
Ole Barton empanelled a coroner's jury, John Tascher, G. 
Anonson, M. Hobbs, Eli Pederson, P. O. Baker and K. P. 
Myrland, which convened in the said factory and fixed the 
guilt of murder at once on Kuehni. In the meantime 
Kuehni had a week's start. He was traced to Monroe, 
Wisconsin, thence to Philadelphia, where he had taken 
passage on the American Line steamer, Lord Gough, 
bound for Basle, Switzerland. He was intercepted, how- 
ever, by a cablegram, and was arrested by a London de- 
tective immediately on his landing in England, December 
29. Sheriff Estes and Peter Sangesend, crossed the water 
in pursuit, and on Feburary 22, had him safely lodged in 
Dane county jail. 

From circumstantial evidence and the murderer's own 
testimony, it was gathered that he had killed Christen in 
in his bed by striking him on the head with a stick of 
wood. Kuehni was living with Christen at the time, the 
two being boon companions who often drank and hunted 

After the murder, Kuehni hung cheese cloth over the 
windows of the factory, and taking the body into the cel- 
lar, cut it up with an axe. A part of the body he burned 
on the cellar floor, a part was buried in a neighboring 
grove, and the head, liver and intestines thrown into the 

The murderer at first maintained his innocence and man- 
ifested a stolid indifference, but later confessed his guilt 
and was sent to Waupun for life. 



On the night of July 4, 1884, Frank Hyde, of New 
Glarus was killed in a drunken street fight in that village, 
by William Wagner, a farm hand in the employ of Charles 
Dixon, of Primrose. Wagner pounded his victim to death 
with brass knuckles. After the killing he coolly returned 


to his work, making no attempt at escape. He was 
i arrested the next day, tried at Monroe, Wisconsin, and 

sentenced to twenty years in the penitentiary for man- 

In the latter part of the eighties a series of the most 

annoying of petty crimes to the farmers of Primrose was 

committed — horse-stealing. The first one to suffer was 

George Bowers, who in 1887 had a valuable mare stolen. 

i In the same year, Nels Hustad lost one, and the year fol- 

I lowing, Ole L. Myrland was the victim, losing a good horse. 

[ The last victim was Syver Skuldt, who one night in the 

summer of 1890, lost an excellent animal. No clue was 

found leading to a punishment of these crimes until some 

time after the last was conimited, when a detective found 

I the rogue in C. J. Agrelius, a former harnessmaker of Mt. 

Vernon, who had spirited these horses away to his home 
I in north-western Illinois. Agrelius was taken to Madison 

I for trial, confessed to all the thefts, and was sent to Wiu- 

pun for a few years. 


I The great tornado that swept through the town of Prim- 

rose on the afternoon of May 23, 1878, was the most apall- 
ing calamity that has ever fallen upon its inhabitants. No 
one save those who witnessed and survived it can compre- 
hend its grandeur and horror. The mightiest oaks of the 
forest were torn up by the roots, houses were seen tossed 
to the clouds, and then sown in countless fragments over 
the surrounding country, while in its midst was a night of 
inky blackness, in which lightning, rain and immense fall- 
ing hailstones added to the horror of the deafening crash, 
and the savage fury of the wind. It struck the town about 
four o'clock in the afternoon of a pleasant day, in which 
the unsuspecting farmers were all about their wonted 
labors in the fields. Its duration was but a few moments, 
yet in that time, three lives were lost in Primrose, many 


persons were injured, and an immense amount of property 
destroyed. Fortunately the width of the storm was but a 
few rods. An excellent account of its passage and its de- 
structive nature is given in Mr. Butterfield's History of 
Dane county (1880) , from which we include the following, 
descriptive of its passage through Primrose: 

"The storm passed into the town of Primrose on both 
sides of the line separating sections 7 and 18.. In 
the south-west corner of Section 18, the house and out- 
buildings of M. Oberemt, were swept away. The house 
was torn to pieces and scattered to the south and south- 
west. Mr. Oberemt and seven children were in the house 
at the time, and were thrown into the yard with the flying 
fragments ot the house. One boy, fifteen years of age, was 
carried fifteen rods nearly south into a ravine. Although 
the ground was so thickly strewn with the ruins as to be 
literally covered for one hundred yards to the south and 
southeast, no one of these eight persons was seriously in- 
jured. The farm wagon, before the storm, stood six rods 
east of the house, after the storm, it was in ruins, twelve 
rods west of the house. Fifty rods south of Mr. Oberemt's, 
where a granary was being built, a wagon loaded with 
lumber, was broken to pieces, one wheel was carried one- 
fourth of a mile directly east, and another, one and a 
fourth miles in the same direction; Nearly half a mile 
east of Mr. Oberemts, the house»and out-buildings of John 
Osmonson were destroyed. Mr. Osmorison seeing that a 
severe storm was approaching, left the field where he was 
at work, that he might not get wet. Becoming somewhat 
alarmed at the roaring, the continous lightning and thun- 
der, and the very threatning aspect of the sky, he waited 
only long enough to unharness one horse, hurried into the 
house and told his wife they must hasten to the cellar. A 
boy of fourteen and a girl of eight got into the cellar, and 
Mrs. Osmonson, with an infant three months old, was 
partly down when the house was taken bodily. At this 


time, Mr. Osmonson, with a child in each hand, aged re- 
spectively four and six, stood at the cellar door waiting 
for the mother and babe to get fully down. Besides these, 
there was in the house a girl twelve years old. This girl 
was found thirty yards distant north of east, senseless, 
nearly buried in mud, with two severe scalp wounds and 
her right arm broken three times between the shoulder 
and elbow. About four rods north of the house was the 
border of a large field of second growth oak and poplar 
timber from twenty to forty feet in height. The house 
was carried over the timber, with Mr. Osmonson and the 
two children whom he still held firmly in his grasp. While 
in the air over this timber, the house went to pieces, the 
larger portion of it falling sixteen rods directly north of 
its starting point. One portion of the roof was twenty- 
five rods distant in a direction north, thirty degrees west, 
and another portion, sixty rods distant north, twenty-five 
degrees east. The stove was mainjy found seven rods 
directly north of the principal ruins of the house, some 
parts, however, were carried several rods farther in the 
same direction. 

*'Mr. Osmonson and the two children fell about twenty 
feet north of the main ruins of the house. Mr. Osmonson 
had his face scratched and one rib broken in falling 
through the tops of a tree. The children were entirely 
unhurt, the youngest one did not even cry. Large hail 
was falling at the time and the children were laid under 
the ruins of the house, while the father hastened to find 
the other members of the family. The children in the 
cellar were not hurt, Mrs. Osmonson was injured in the 
back, probably by something striking her as the house 
moved off. The stable in which the horses had been put, 
was eight rods south-west of the house. One of the horses 
was blown into the cellar, and lay there upon his back 
when found, while the other was in the standing timber, 
twenty-two rods distant, with his hind feet resting upon 


the ground while his fore feet were hanging upon a bent 
over sapling. The position of the horse and the thick 
growth of the timber, rendered it impossible for him to 
get there only by being carried above the tops of the trees 
and dropped down. He was uninjured. An iron pump, 
with forty-six feet of zinc pipe, was taken from a well and 
carried north-west a distance of fifteen rods. A lumber 
wagon was broken entirely to pieces. One wheel and an axle 
were carried north sixty-five degrees, east seventy-five 
rods, while the large portion of the ren^ainder went north- 
east sixteen rods. One wheel was entirely broken to 
pieces, and the tire left hanging on a tree ten feet from 
the ground. This tire, one-half inch thick and one and 
one half inches wide and very slightly worn was broken 
twice in two and bent in such a manner as to show that it 
had been acted upon by a force of great power. 

*' Eighty rods north-east of Osmonson's house, stood a 
house belonging to Mrs. Ketchum. This was on the south 
side of a hill. It was taken bodily from the foundation, 
up the hill, north, and left in a little niche in the woods 
north-west from its starting point fifteen rods. The family 
escaped by going to the cellar. 

*' The storm bent to the north at this point. Its northern 
border struck the house of G. Gullikson, situated at the 
center of Section 9. This house was partially protected 
by standing timber, and was only slightly injured. A shed, 
rather slightly built, was torn away and carried directly 
west. Fifty rods south of the center of the west line of 
Section 10, the house of N. Byrge was totally destroyed. 
Byrge and his son were instantly killed. Their bodies 
when found lay in a ravine about fifteen rods north-east 
of the house. The stove and the larger part of the ruins 
of the house were found near them. A barrel was carried 
directly east half a mile. Mrs Byrge was injured to some 
extent. One man escaped by jumping into the cellar. 
Very nearly directly north from Byrge's and one hundred 


rods distant, the barn, granary and hay stacks of Mr. Hobbs 
were blown down, the debris falling directly south. Be- 
tween Byrge's and Hobb's, a marsh some forty rods in 
width fairly bristled with pieces of board, timber and other 
debris, that had come from the house on the south and 
the barn on the north. 

•' Three-fourths of a mile further east, J. T. Chandler, had 
upon one side of the road a house and three barns, and 
upon the other side stood a house and barn belonging to R. 
B. Chandler. These buildings were utterly destroyed. It 
would be difficult to imagine a picture of greater deso- 
lation than was to be seen here after the storm. It was 
not over thirty rods from one extreme of this group of 
buildings to the other. The ruins were consequently 
strewn over a comparatively small space and were corre- 
spondingly thick. The broken foundation walls, the debris 
of the buildings, fragments of tables, bedsteads, bureaus 
and chairs, shreds of bedding and clothing, hanging up- 
on bushes and trees or lying upon the ground in a state 
which rendered it difficult to distinguish the garment from 
the mud, gave the scene an indescribably saddening air of 
ruin and desolation. 

"The debris of these buildings was thrown east and 
north-east, one piece of timber eight inches square 
and six feet long, was carried east one fourth of a mile. 
The sills of one barn were twelve inches square, one of 
these was broken in four pieces and the others in two. 
Very few whole timbers were left. The deed of J. T. 
Chandler's farm was found the next day nearly ten miles 
distant, directly east. A portion of an organ from R. B. 
Chandler's house, was found four and one fourth miles 
directly north, while the boiler and some cooking 
utensils, were carried east one mile. The family of J. T. 
Chandler escaped injury by going to the cellar. W. Os- 
borne and family were living in R. B. Chandler's house. 
Mr. Osborne was slightly injured; Mrs. Osborne had one 


leg broken twice, the knee of the other seriously injured, 
and was bruised all over by the hail; a daughter was so 
severely injured as not to be able to walk for three months. 
Seventeen pans of milk in the cellar were not disturbed 
by the storm. 

• "One mile east of Mr. Chandler's, on the bank of Sugar 
River, R. Shepard's granary and log house were destroyed. 
The stove, a part of the furniture and some of the logs of 
the house were blown into the river. A lady school tea- 
cher, boarding at the house, was saved from the same fate 
by a log falling on her and holding her down. Mrs. 
Shepard was somewhat hurt by falling hail. This house 
was on the northern border of the stream; one hundred 
rods, directly south, upon the southern border, the house 
of O. S. Olson was unroofed. Chandler's buildings were 
in the center of the tornado's path, which there was only 
eighty rods in width. It had consequently widened about 
twenty rods and curved slightly to the south between 
Chandler's and Shepard's. Near the center of the south- 
west quarter of Section 12, a log house was blown down 
and Mrs. Galena killed by falling timber. With the 
exception of the destruction of timber and the blowing 
down of fences, little damage was done for the next four 
and one-half miles. 

A Representative Womar\. 





Primrose is an excellent stock and grain region. Through 
the northern part of the town flows the west branch of the 
Sugar River and two tributaries of the same, which give 
the north half an abundance of water and meadow land, 
making it excellent for dairying;, now the most marked 
industry of the inhabitants. The surface is undulating 
and agreeably diversified with oak openings and prairie, 
and in the south central part there is considerable high 

The most striking natural curiosity in the town is 
"Devil's Chimney,** in Section 11. This is a perpendic- 
ular sandstone rock, crowned by a large mass of the same 
stone and resembling very much a chimney, being fifty 
feet high, twenty-five feet in circumference at the base, 
and seventy-five feet in circumference at the top. Seen 
from a distance it lends a most picturesque charm to the 
surrounding scenery. Close at its base is a large flat rock 
known as the " Devil's Washbasin,** because of a cavity in 
its top which is frequently filled with rainwater. Not far 
away is the "DeviVs Bootjack.'* 

The rocks doubtless received their names from some 
bluff pioneer explorer. 

Names of visitors from all parts of the union are found 
carved upon these rocks. Near the top of the chimney is 
the inscription '* L. L. B. *56,** and close by *' Geo. McFad- 
den, H. S. Utley, 1858. 

Owing to the difficulty of the feat, many daring souls 
have been tempted to climb the chimney. The story that 
Joel Britts scaled it in 1850 is denied by his sons. The 
first one known to have climbed the rock, for certain, was 


Bert Olsen, who in 1859 achieved the feat by means of a 
rope. J. A. Oliver scaled it in 1873, and in,1877, J. A. 
Oliver, Henry Fulton and A. Warden climbed it by means 
of poles and ropes. In 1879, however, Frank Pierce per- 
formed the daring feat of climbing it unaided by either. 
He placed a handkerchief on a pole and returning three 
years later, climbed it again in the same way and took down 
the remnants of his handkerchief. The chimney has 
since been scaled by Prof. A.J.Olson and many others. 

Mount Julid in Section 24, is another natural curiosity 
of note. This is an oblong ridge of rock 1700 feet long 
200 feet high and 250 feet broad on top. It commands an 
extensive view of the surrounding country. One tradition 
says it took its name from that of an old woman who once 
lived in a cabin near its base, while another whispers of a 

There are three cemeteries in present use in the town. 
In Section 28 the two Lutheran congregations have each 
one, and in Section 22 is one maintained by the Baptists. 
In the latter are buried. Pioneer Norman Randall, who 
died December 23, 1886, aged 77 years, and two volunteers, 
Laurene Randall and George P. Ketchum, both of whom 
died in service in 1865. Among the pioneers buried in the 
Norse Evangelical Lutheran cemetery are Kund Bowerson, 
who died in 1871, aged 45 years, and Peter Myrland, who 
died in 1868, aged 66 years. 

The population of the town is largely Scandinavian, the 
more restless and easy-going Yankee of the early day 
having been crowded out. Now the Scandinavians are 
being pressed out by the Swiss, whose greater industry 
and lower standard of living make them the fitter to sur- 
vive in the narrowing circumstances of growing com- 
munities. The total population at present is 902; males, 
495; females, 407; colored, 1. Of these 652 were born in 
the United States; 159 in Norway; 59 in Switzerland. 
There are 161 eligibles for the militia. Seven war veterans 


are resident: Patrick Goggin, Company H, Eighth Wis- 
consin Vol. Inf.; John Peters, Company E, Fifteenth; Nils 
Hustad, Company G, Fifteenth; Ole Barton, Company D, 
Twenty-third; N.^ N. Byrge, Company K, Twenty-eighth; 
M. C. Webber, Company F, Forty-second; Osmund Os- 
mundson, Company I, Forty-third. 

The population of the town at the end of each five years 
of its history has been: 1850, (including Perry), 438; 1855, 
631; 1860, 889; 1865, 867; 1870, 1015; 1875, 919; 1880. 888; 
1885. 864; 1890, 890; 1895, 902. 

Politically, Primrose has always been strongly republican, 
The town has been three times represented in the assem- 
bly of the State Legislature, in 1868 by Gunof Tollefson; 
1882 by Eli Pederson; 1888 by P. O. Baker. 

But few of the old pioneers remain. They are fast 
going and . a new generation has come upon the scene to 
reap the reward of their heroic self sacrifices. All honor 
to their memories. With the pioneers are also going the 
old log cabins, and the writer in concluding this work 
would voice the general regret of the pioneers that thought- 
less and irreverent hands should so fast sweep away these 
monuments to love and hardship, and so often needlessly. 
They too are fast going, and in a few years the rustic ram- 
bler will stumble across the green embankments of the 
latest one and muse uoon its buried memories. Let the 
old landmarks remain to teach their silent lessons of ven- 
eration for the courage and virtues of our brave fathers 
and mothers. A thousand tender memories cluster about 
them. Whittier, pleading for the old pioneer manhood, 
takes his cue from one of these cabins and says beautifully 
of it: 

Against the wooded hill it stands, 
Gost of a dead home, staring through 

Its broken lights on wasted lands 
Where old time harvests grew. 

Of healthful herb and flower bereft, 
The garden-plot no housewife keeps; 


Through weeds and tangle only left, 
The snake, its tenant, creeps. 

A lilac-spray, once blossom clad, 

Sways bare before the empty rooms; 
Beside the roofless porch a sad. 

Pathetic red rose blooms. 

His track, in mould and dust of drouth. 

On floor and hearth the squirrel leaves. 
And in the fireless chimney's mouth 

His web the spider weaves. 


The leaning barn, about to fall, 

Resounds no more on harvest eves. 
No cattle low in yard or stall. 

No thresher beats his sheaves. 

So sad, so dread! It seems almost 
Some haunting presence makes its sign; 

That down yon shadowy lane some ghost 
Might drive his spectral kine! 

O home so desolate and lorn! 

Did all thy memories die with thee? 
Were any wed, were any born. 

Beneath this low roof tree? 

Whose axe the wall of forest broke. 
And let the waiting sunshine through? 

What good wife sent the earliest smoke 
Up the great chimny-flue? 

Did rustic lovers hither. come? 

Did maidens, swaying back and fourth. 
In rhythmic grace, at wheel and loom. 
Make light their toil with mirth? 

Did child-feet patter on the stair? 

Did boyhood frolic in the snow? 
Did gray age, in her elbow-chair. 

Knit, rocking two and fro? 

The murmuring brook, the sighing breeze. 

The pine's low whisper, cannot tell; 
Low mounds beneath the old yew-trees 

Keep the home-secrets well. 

With such sentiments awakened who would needlessly 
lay a ruinous hand upon them, dead homes though they 




No work that purports to be a history of Primrose 
would be complete without a sketch of the distinguished 
gentleman named above. Primrose claims him as her 
son and the fact that she should have the honor of send- 
ing one of the sons of her first generation into the high- 
est councils of the nation, and that that son, though the 
youngest in the august body in which he sat, should in 
the space of a very few years become one of its recognized 
leaders, is to her a matter of no small pride. 

Robert Marion La Follette was born in Primrose, June 
14, 1855, in a small log cabin on the farm at present owned 
by Christ Engeland. He is the son of Josiah La Follette 


and Mary (Ferguson) La Follette, and comes from good 
French Canadian stock on his father's side. His father 
died while Robert was but a year old (1856) and, in 1861. 
Robert's mother removed to Argyle, Wisconsin. 

Even as a boy, Robert was noted for his fascinating 
power of making and holding friends. In school he was the 
most brilliant in his classes and excelled especially in dra- 
matic presentation, being greatly in demand at the spelling 
schools, then so popular. In 1873 he attended a last few 
days in school No. 1 in Primrose under N. A. Abbott. 
Previous to 1873 his time was occupied in working on the 
farm in the summer time and teaching school during the 
winter. In that year he removed to Madison with his 
mother, again a widow, and entered a private academy. 
In 1875, he entered the State University, taking the gen- 
eral science course. In the university he was active in 
literary circles, being editor and part owner of the Uni- 
versity Press. His great forte, however, lay in public 
speaking, and in his senior year he won a most signal 
triumph. Carrying off the highest honors at the univer- 
sity oratorical contest, he went to the state contest at 
Beloit and came off victorious over the best men of the 
colleges of the state. This made him Wisconsin's repre- 
sentative to the inter-state contest at Iowa City, Iowa, at 
which Mr. La Follette again triumphed, this time over 
the representatives of five states, all of whom had passed 
through the same ordeal. His oration, " lago," was an 
original, critical, and powerful delineation of that char- 
acter, and even the great Edwin Booth once declared that 
he had obtained new conceptions of it through Mr. La 
Follette's exposition. Speaking of this contest, the Iowa 
City Republican of May 8, 1879, said: " Mr. La Follette 
bears away the golden badge of honor without one dis- 
senting voice among the judges, and had the question 
been put to the house, the unanimous answer would 
have been, aye!" Perhaps the proudest moment of 


Mr. La Follette's life was when he stepped from the 
train again at Madison. The university met him in a 
body, accompanied by many of the most prominent men 
of the city and he was escorted about the town amid un- 
bounded enthusiasm and rejoicing. Speeches were made 
by Hon. E. W. Keyes, Col. Wm. F. Vilas, Prof. Franken- 
burger and others, and Geo. B. Smith summed up the 
glories of the hour thus: " Mr. La Follette has honored 
his associates in the university, he has honored the insti- 
tution to which he belongs, he has honored the state of 
Wisconsin, and above all, and many times more import- 
ant than all else, he has honored his widowed mother." 

On his graduation from the university, Mr. La Follette 
read law in the office of R. M. Bashford, and on Feb. 5, 
1880, was admitted to the bar. The same year he was 
elected district attorney for Danie county, and for four 
years served with consummate ability. In 1884 he was 
elected to congress by the republicans of the third dis- 
trict. He was the youngest man in the house, but so 
strongly did his personality press forth that he was 
recognized as the leader of the Wisconsin delegation 
almost from the very start, and and in 1888 Speaker Reed 
appointed him a member of the important committee of 
ways and means and chairman of the committee on ap- 
propriations for agriculture. In the political landslide of 
1890, Mr. La Follette went down in the general ruin, un- 
fortunately for Wisconsin. Since his retirement from 
politics, Mr. La Follette has devoted himself to the duties 
of an increasing law practice, having been employed on 
practically all the important cases throughout this section 
of the state. He is one of the recognized powers 
of the state bar, being especially strong as a jury .lawyer. 
His many friends insist that a brighter political career 
than ever awaits him in the future. As one says, " he can 
no more be kept down, than a cork can be kept under 



Mr. La Follette is married to Belle Case, of Baraboo, 
herself a graduate of the university, and admitted to the 
bar. They have two children, a daughter and a son. 




Gool G. Gunhus, died August 17, 1882. 
Born in Buskeruds Amt, Aggershus 
Stift, Norway, March 30, 1836. Came 
to America in 1849, worked a while in 
Rock county, as a farm hand, at $3.00 
per month, and lived on Jefferson 
Prairie until 1854, when he came to 
Primrose. June 8. 1862, he married 
Gool G. Guniijs. Julia Lewis (Kolve),born Februarys, 
1841, in Voss, Bergen Stift, Norway. They had two child- 
ren, Clara T., now Mrs. K. B. Skuldt, and George B. At 
his death Mr. Gunhus owned 329 acres of land and the 
best farm house in Primrose. Was a republican; super- 
visor in 1870-71, and a member of the Hauges Lutheran 

Mrs. Mons Ness (Olson), died March 11, 1886. Born 
April 14, 1828, in Aggershus, Norway. Came with par- 
ents to Spring Valley, Wisconsin, in 1845. 

Norman Randall, died December 23, 1886. Born in 
Bridgewater, Oneida county. New York, December 24, 1809. 
Married January 2, 1842, Maria Chandler. Came to Prim- 
rose in 1851. Mr. Randall was a member of the Mt. Vernon 
Baptist Church. 

C. F. Weltzin, died Jan., 1891. Born in Stavanger 
Amt, Norway, May 14, 1827; came with two brothers to 
America in 1854, suffering from cholera at Quebec and 
Chicago. Paid $170, in 1855, for his Primrose farm (sec. 


29), then a wildnerness with only a roofless cabin on it. 
Married Maria Johanneson, who died Dec. 3, 1867, leav- 
ing five children. Maif ied again in 1871, Monsena Jen- 
sen. They had six children. Mr. Weltzin was town 
treasurer three years during the civil war. 

Mons Halvorson (Ness), died in 1891. Born near 
Christiana. Norway, Aug. 26, 1826. Came with family to 
America in 1846; married Aug. 28, 1851, in Spring Valley, 
Wis., Betsey Olson. Came to Primrose (sec. 32) in 1852, 
very poor, but died well off. 

Bjorn O. Skuldt, died in 1892. Came with his father, 
Ole Skuldt, to Primrose in the earliest fifty's. 

Gunnel Jackson, died near Canby, Minn., 1893. Came 
to Primrose with his mother and brother George in May, 
1849; remained until 1866. He was in some respects a re- 
markable man. An educated man, he possessed a respect- 
able library and was one of the first school teachers of the 
day. A thorough Republican, he fearlessly advocated 
negro emancipation long before the civil war and when 
nearly all his neighbors were Democrats. He was an ex- 
tensive traveler, having visited all the Norwegian settle- 
ments in the country, and in 1854 crossed the plains to 
Pike's Peak. He also served through the war of the re- 

George Moore, died March, 1893. Came to Primrose 
in the early fifties, settling on government land. A prom- 
inent and wealthy farmer. Left a widow and four child- 

Mrs. Julia Tollefson (Gunhus) , died April 8, 1893. Mrs. 
T. was born near Dromme, Norway; married Gunof Tol- 
lefson, April 26, 1850, and came to Primrose in October, 
of the same year. 

Lars L. Kolve, died at Mt. Horeb, Wis., Feb. 7, 1894. 
Born May 3, 1818, at Kolve, Voss, Norway. Married in 
1838, Breta Kvarkval; came to America in 1850. Mr. 
Kolve lived two years at Muskego, Racine county, and 



during 1851 helped lay the plank road from Racine to 
Milwaukee. In 1852 he came to Primrose and settled in 
section 29. 

Mrs. Mary Saxton, died at Madison, April 21, 1894; 

"The death of Mrs. Mary La Follette Saxton, which 
occurred at the home of Judge Siebecker, in Madison, 
last Saturday morning, removes a noble woman and an- 
other of the pioneers of Primrose. Her maiden name 
was Mary Ferguson. She was born in Indiana, Nov. 2, 
1818, of a North Carolina father and a Maryland mother. 
In 1840 she married Alexander Buchanan, who died a 
year later, leaving a daughter, Ellen, now Mrs. D. H. 
Eastman. In 1846, she married Josiah La Follette, of 
Mt. Sterling, Ky., and in 1849 they came to Primrose, 
settling upon the farm at present owned by Christ Enge- 
land. The La Follettes, who figured so conspicuously in 


the early history of Primrose, were loved and honored 
by their neighbors, for their ability, kindness and purity 
of life. 

" Josiah La FoUette served as chairman and town clerk, 
and his wife was active in church and school matters. The 
harshness and privations of pioneer life were softened to 
many by their kind ministrations. In 1853, Josephine, 
now Mrs. Judge R. G. Siebecker, was born, and June 14, 
1855, Robert M. La Follette was born. In 1856, consump- 
tion carried off her second husband, and for six years she 
conducted the farm alone, with the assistance of her son, 
William, about ten years of age. In 1862, she married 
John Z. Saxton, of Argyle, Wisconsin, and rejnoved to 
that place. In 1870, with her husband, she returned to 
the Primrose homestead, and three years later was again 
left a widow, her husband dying at the advanced age of 
82. In 1873, she removed to Madison, that her children 
might enter the University. The brilliant career of her 
youngest son. from this period on, and the esteem in which 
her other children were held, must have been a source of 
pride and comfort to her in her old age. Her remains 
were laid to rest in the Forest Hill cemetery, and a large 
number of people of all classes were in attendance at the 
funeral.'* — Mt, Horeb Times. 

Charles Harker, died May 28, 1894. Mr. Harker was 
born Aug. 9, 1823, in Ellerby, Yorkshire, England; came 
to America in 1849; was in Canada and Illinois until 
1854, when he settled in Primrose, on section 7. Married 
June, 1852, in Waukesha county, Elizabeth*^||yrnell, born 
January, 1833, in Withenwick, Yorkshire, c^pfe to Muk- 
wonago. Wis., 1837. Mr. and Mrs. Harker -had nine 



J. Anderson Spears, Northfield, Minn. 

Mrs. Maria (Spears) Norris, Otranto, Iowa. 

Jacob Nofsinger, Valley, Wis. 

William R. Spears, Moscow, Wis. 

Isaac D. Spears, Eagle Grove, Iowa. 

Robert Ashmore, Osage, Iowa. 

Charles Lewis, Brodhead, Wis. 

W. W. Patchin, Magnolia, Wis. 

John Jones, Mt. Vernon, Wis. 

Thomas Jones, Mt. Vernon, Wis. 

Ole Nelson, Slater, Iowa. 

Mr. and Mrs. D. H. Eastman, Ola, S. D, 

Ashley C. Thomas, Wyoming, Wis. 

.Eliphalet A. Thomas, Woonsocket, S. D. 

Mrs. Harriet A. (Thomas) Willis, Woonsocket, S. D. 

Mrs. Mary L. Parkinson, Fayette, Wis. 

Freeman Ash, Westley, Iowa. 

Clarke J. Lewis, Mt. Vernon, Wis. 

Peter Bell, Albany, Wis. 

Joseph A. Britts, Foxboro, Minn. 

E. M. Britts, Verndale, Minn. 

Gunof Tollefson, Mt. Horeb, Wis. 

Philander Nash, Magnolia, Wis. 

Andrew Nash, Tina, Wis. 

Mrs. Alvina (Nash) Phillips, 844 Richard St., Milwaukee. 

Harris D. Smith, Albany, Wis. 

Mrs. Sophia (Smith) Comstock, Albany, Wis. 

C. E. Patchin, Nashville, Minn. 

J. Patchin, Nashville, Minn. 

Henry Hendrickson,Sheldahl, la. 

Mrs. Caroline A. Osmundsen, Estherville, la. 

Moses Chandler, Red Oak, la. 

R. B. Chandler, Oregon, Wis. 

B. F. Thomas, Tomah, Wis. 



Mrs. Matilda E. Arnold, Spring Green, Wis. 

Mrs. C. S. Pope, Arena, Wis. 

Nils N. Skogen, Blue Earth City, Minn. 

Anun Gullickson, Harvard, Neb. 

Mr. and Mrs. Anun Jorgenson, Clear Lake, la. 

Mrs. Kari Oscars (Jorgenson), Belleville, Wis. 

Einar Nelson, Menomonie, Wis. 

George Jackson. Beloit, Wis, 

H. O. Skuldt, Mt. Horeb, Wis. 

Ole G. Stamn, New Glarus, Wis. 

This book should be returned la 

the Library on or before the last dale 

a tamped below. 

1^ A fine of five oenia a day is inonrred 

by retaining it beyond the speoiHed 

Please i 

1 promptly. 


■ I